Sunday, 19 May 2024
Sunday, 19 May 2024

Charity closes its doors for a week to give exhausted staff a chance to recover

A WILTSHIRE charity says it is closing its office for a week and giving staff extra paid leave to show its appreciation for their tireless work during the pandemic.

Wessex Community Action will close between October 24 and 28 because chief executive Amber Skyring said she and the charity’s trustees felt it was the only way they could afford to reward staff.

Amber said:

“This decision has been made to support the core staff who have been working through all the external challenges over the last two years. The contribution that charities make to our communities and to wider society has been undeniable and the past couple of years have been hard – personally and professionally for everyone.”

The Salisbury charity, which works all over Wiltshire, supports smaller groups with training and guidance to help make them more resilient, represents the voluntary sector in dealings with council and health leaders and runs forums for small groups and charities to give them a stronger voice. During the pandemic, it organised volunteers to deliver shopping and prescriptions for people sheltering in lockdowns, helped groups understand and implement changing guidance and provided support for those forced to switch their services online.

Mrs Skyring said staff all over the voluntary sector are exhausted by the efforts of the last two years:

“We have decided to close down to recognise the huge energy it requires to work in the charitable sector and our staff’s commitment to ensure the continuation of services through the pandemic and lockdowns and beyond. 

“The huge changes we have all encountered to ensure our services were accessible and that meant taking things digital and learning new ways of working without the funds to bring in skilled and experienced workers to help us do this – staff learnt on the job while juggling the increased workloads the pandemic brought.”

She said the extra paid week off is also some compensation for being unable to match the pay charity workers received compared to their counterparts in the commercial world. Charities were unable to fundraise during the pandemic and were forced to eat into their reserves to continue supporting communities.

Mrs Skyring said:

“Charity workers are paid 7 per cent less per hour than their counterparts in the wider economy, a report by Pro Bono Economics has found.

“The charity sector in the UK would have to increase pay by £1.47bn a year to close the gap with the wider economy, the report estimates. It warns that low pay threatens to weaken the sector, and shows its work is being undervalued. 

“The cost of living crisis disproportionately affects charitable workers because one in seven third sector workers are still paid below the real living wage and face being swept away by the rising tide of high living costs.”

The charity is currently working on a cost-of-living crisis briefing for the sector to help it understand the challenges and some practical steps it might take to mitigate those challenges.

Mrs Skyring said:

“We are in the privileged position of not being a frontline charity that has to stay open for those most in need of support and we appreciate that there are charities that cannot do what we are doing. What we are trying to do is encourage charities to take a creative look at how and in what way they might respond to support and secure staff.

“But we can’t find additional funds to pay our staff, funders contributions don’t increase every time there is an external crisis, but we can show them we appreciate and value all that they do.

“We hope that this additional weeks paid leave gives them time with their families and friends, a chance to rest, re-charge and reset.”

Find out more about Wessex Community Action’s work at: wessexcommunityaction.org.

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