Charities have broadly welcomed measures to deal with coronavirus announced in the budget, but said the government missed opportunities to deal with other important issues.
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rishi Sunak, who became Chancellor on 13 February 2020, following the resignation of Sajid Javid when Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet, delivered his first budget and announced a range of measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
He promised a £5bn emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services, and said that statutory *sick pay would be paid to all those who choose to self isolate, even if they do not have the symptoms.
*Britain’s statutory sick pay is amongst the lowest in Europe. Currently it stands at £94.25 per week. Belgium gives its citizens full salary for up to 30 days of illness. German workers are paid their full salary for six weeks, and following that receive 70% of their salary until they are fit to return to work or forced to retire.
Norwegian workers get 52 weeks full salary if they have a long term illness. Average waits for sick pay payments in Europe are three days.
The Chancellor also announced a £500m hardship fund to help vulnerable people, and said that employers with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick payments for two weeks. Small firms will be able to access “business interruption” loans of up to £1.2m, and business rates will be abolished for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value below £51,000.
Additional funding was announced for veteran’s mental health. A £10m uplift will be provided in 2020-21 to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, to deliver charitable projects and initiatives that support veterans with mental health needs.
Caron Bradshaw, Chief Executive of Charity Finance Group
Caron Bradshaw felt that the government did not dig enough into issues. She said; “There were big headlines and giveaways in this first budget of the new decade. However it was a budget delivered without adjustments for the impact of coronavirus, which could be significant and long lasting. In addition, the measures dealt with the visible tips of icebergs, such as the homeless provisions, without digging deep enough into the underlying issues.”
Paul Winyard, Policy manager at NCVO
He felt that practical provisions were welcome but it was disappointing that there was no detail on Shared Prosperity Fund. He went onto add; “Charities should be aware that provisions made for employers around coronavirus and sick pay will apply to them.”
He added that a number of tax announcements were helpful, including the rough sleepers fund and the scrapping of the Tampon tax, which had come about after charity campaigns.