Coronavirus ‘furlough’ rules could cause volunteer shortage in essential community services

The Salvation Army has written to the Government asking for clarification on the furlough rules to avoid a potentially devastating volunteer shortage in many of its community services.

The Salvation Army strongly supports the Retention Scheme but requests a review of the guidelines that restrict furloughed workers from volunteering for their employer. Many Salvation Army employees volunteer within the organisation in positions unrelated to their job. For example, someone could be paid to work in a Salvation Army charity shop but in their spare time, volunteer at a Salvation Army foodbank or night shelter.

The Salvation Army relies heavily on volunteers to run many of its essential services – from debt advice counsellors to cooking hot meals for the homeless and even driving victims of modern slavery to our network of safe houses. Unless the rules are clarified to ensure that this would not be a breach of Government guidelines, the church and charity could suffer a dramatic loss in volunteers, which in turn could greatly impede its ability to deliver community services, including those that support the current coronavirus relief response at a local level.

Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant, Secretary for Communications at The Salvation Army has written to Baroness Barran MBE at the Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport to seek this urgent clarity.

He said:

“Losing volunteers could threaten our services at a time when they are needed the most.

“A number of our employees who are being furloughed also worship at The Salvation Army. They are part of our faith community and many in their own personal time volunteer for other parts of the Army. While we agree with the intention to safeguard the Job Retention Scheme from abuse, we do not believe it is the Government’s intention to prevent people from participating in the life of their faith community, such as ours.”

The Salvation Army proposes that employees who are furloughed are not permitted to undertake any of the functions associated with their contracted work. However, furloughed workers should be able to participate in activities usually undertaken by volunteers in their faith community.

The Government’s scheme pays the salaries of furloughed employees at 80 per cent of their normal wage up to £2,500 per month before tax, for a three month period, but only if they do not carry out any work, voluntary or otherwise, for their employer during this period.

Iwan Roberts

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