Your Questions to Government and Latest Answers

24 Apr 2020 Geoff Nuttall    Last updated: 28 Apr 2020

Please go to updated version here - https://www.nicva.org/article/your-questions-to-government-and-latest-answers

 

Questions

Answers

  1. What government funding is available to voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations in Northern Ireland to deal with the impacts of Covid-19?

The confirmed sources of Government funding currently available in NI are listed on the NICVA website here 

  • UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme HMRC (see - here)
  • DfC Discretionary Support Scheme (grant payment to assist with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate)
  • DfC COVID-19 Creative Support Fund.  For artists and institutions​
  • DfC emergency sports fund.  For grassroots sports organisations

Northern Ireland is also set to receive around £22 million from the Covid-19 funding package for UK charities announced on the 8th April. See - https://www.nicva.org/article/chancellor-s-announcement-of-750m-to-support-charities-what-s-happening-in-northern-ireland Details of the priorities, eligibility, delivery mechanisms and applications procedures for this funding in Northern Ireland are still being finalised.  NICVA will publish details of these as soon as they are confirmed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Can voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations access the Covid-19 support grants being offered to businesses administered by Invest NI?

Invest NI has indicated on its NI business website www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk that voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations are not eligible to receive the Covid-19 Small Business Support Grant Scheme, which offers grants of £10,000 provided to all small businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme.  NICVA has been raising concerns about this exclusion on behalf of social enterprise organisations. 

Invest NI also administers £25,000 grants for (businesses) in the hospitality, retail, tourism and leisure sectors.  Whilst the guidance on their website doesn’t explicitly exclude social enterprises working in these sectors, organisations are reporting to NICVA that their applications have been rejected.  In some case this appears to be because maximum eligible NAV thresholds are being applied on the non-rateable premises of charities, rather than on the rateable commercial elements of their operation.  Again NICVA is urging that the flexibility is applied to enable social enterprises in these sector struggling to survive to access these grant and continue to deliver both economic and social/environmental benefits in their areas. 

Invest NI has indicated that if there are changes to these sscheme, any new information will be updated on NI Business Info website.  https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/ 

It should also be noted that social enterprise organisations may be eligible for some or all of the above sources of government funding referred to in the answer to question 1 above. 

 

  1. Can the current barriers to migrant workers accessing Covid-19-related government support be removed?

 

(e.g. Requirements to demonstrate the Habitual Residence Test, NRPF (no resources to public funds) conditions – see email from CAJ below proposing potential solutions)

The UK Cabinet Office indicated on 08.04.20 that -

Regarding the NRPF condition – The Home Office are willing to look again at the wording in tandem with DWP and NIE's Department for Communities but in the meantime they have confirmed that ‘contributory’ employment and support allowance and statutory sick pay are not classed as public funds. In addition, the coronavirus job retention scheme and self-employment income support scheme, protection for renters and mortgage holidays are also not classed as public funds and so those currently marked as NRPF should be able to apply. Currently it is only the discretionary grant that is classed as public funds for immigration purposes.

EEA Nationals - DWP are drafting further guidance to deal with universal credit applications from EEA nationals as pragmatically as possible. I'm hoping this means that they will not have to go through the usual lengthy residency processes but I have asked DWP to confirm directly.

  1. Which VCSE volunteers are classified as ‘Key Workers’?

 

For the purposes of being eligible for childcare in schools for children of Key Workers this is being dealt through individual negotiation by parents with schools

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (NI) 2020 (below) provides volunteers with a “reasonable excuse” to be out and about, without a requirement for proof, see extract below -

(d)    to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 2 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007([1]), to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;

(f)     to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

Volunteers and organisations hosting volunteers are urged to read Volunteer Now’s comprehensive guidance available here: https://www.volunteernow.co.uk/information-resources-related-to-covid-19/

  1. Can Government funders apply flexibility with grants that partly fund a number of staff to allow 100% of the grant to be allocated to some posts whilst furloughing other staff?

The Department for Communities has indicated to date that it cannot apply this flexibility.  NICVA is continuing to raise this issue and urgent need for this position to be reviewed

 

  1. Can there be some flexibility in the application of the furloughing scheme to be able to include workers recruited before the 28th February but not starting on the payroll till after and also for annual seasonal workers who were not on the payroll on the 28th February but have been long-term on the payroll during the working seasons?

UK Treasury (HMT) has confirmed the scheme is open to any individual who was on an employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020. Full guidance can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme . This should cover seasonal workers who have been on payroll for a long time even if not in season on 28th Feb.

HMT has chosen the Feb date to reduce the substantial risk of fraud associated in delivering such a large-scale program at pace. This means those employed on or after 1 March are excluded from the scheme, and while there is flexibility for those who were recruited before, and started work before but needed to be added to payroll later, there is no flexibility for those who were recruited before 28th February but who did not start work until after March 1st. There would need to be large scale compelling evidence to revisit this particular decision

  1. Can PHA Covid-19 guidance and communications be updated (on website etc) to include clear guidance on volunteering and providing support safely to ensure both that safe volunteering/ community response is not discouraged and that what is taking place is following guidelines? 

This issue has been raised with the PHA via DfC and directly by NICVA

 

 

  1. Is there a similar mechanism for Northern Ireland to the gov.uk register of vulnerable people

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable

The links on the page for ‘Northern Ireland’ do not give any relevant information.

There is currently no similar register of vulnerable people for Northern Ireland nor a central database of those who have received ‘shielding letters.’  For individual enquiries on this, people are urged to phone the Covid-19 Community Helpline on 0800 802 0020

For Covid-19 related advice for vulnerable people see also - https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-vulnerable-people

  1. Can there be an increase in Carers Allowance in NI to cover additional overheads due to the Covid-19 crisis (as being called for at UK level by Carers UK)?

Government has so far agreed that there should be no break in Carers Allowance.  (see –

https://www.carersuk.org/northernireland/news-ni/carers-uk-welcomes-changes-to-carer-s-allowance-in-response-to-coronavirus

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/carers-allowance

After UK Govt published their plan for social care in response to Covid-19, Carers UK issued a further statement, included a call for rise in Carers Allowance during the COVID 19 crisis

Call for rise in Carers Allowance -

https://www.carersuk.org/northernireland/news-ni/carers-uk-reacts-to-government-s-adult-social-care-plan-on-coronavirus

Update from Department for Communities 24.04.20 -

The Department has introduced two important temporary measures to help unpaid carers through the current COVID-19 emergency:

  • Unpaid carers will be able to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because either they or the person they care for becomes infected with coronavirus or has to self-isolate because of it.
  • Providing “emotional support” to a severely disabled person will also now count towards the Carer’s Allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week.

The rate of Carer’s Allowance was increased to £67.25 a week from April 2020 as part of the annual benefits up-rating exercise. 

Carers on low incomes can access additional financial support through income-related benefits and their associated carer premiums/additions.

Carers claiming Universal Credit will also be able to benefit from the increase in the standard allowance (around £1000 a year) recently announced.

In addition, those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance may, depending on their circumstances, be eligible to access the range of other emergency financial support that my Department is providing, including Discretionary Support.

The government response to COVID-19 continues to evolve and the Department’s website is kept up to date with changes and easements made to all benefits in response to the pandemic - you can find this at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-and-benefits.

To ensure a person is in receipt of all the money and support they are entitled to they can contact the Department’s Make the Call Service on Freephone number 0800 232 1271.

 

 

([1])   S.I. 2007/1351 (N.I. 11). Sub-paragraph (3B) was substituted, with sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) and (3A) to (3E) for sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) by s. 78 of and paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 7 to, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (c. 9)

geoff.nuttall@nicva.org's picture
by Geoff Nuttall

Head of Policy and Public Affairs

[email protected]

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