Volunteers could be paid by the government for up to four weeks as part of measures to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
An emergency coronavirus bill presented to parliament this afternoon proposed that employees would be able to take emergency volunteer leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks, which would technically be unpaid.
But the bill says that loss of earnings and expenses will be covered by the government if people volunteer through “an appropriate authority” and paid for through a UK-wide compensation fund.
A spokesman for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said the organisation would “in principle” welcome the proposals, but it would be important to see the detail about how employees would be compensated in practice once a compensation fund was set up.
The move comes as the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, launched a campaign to encourage more volunteering to help people affected by Covid-19.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it was working with the National Emergencies Trust, the NCVO and the British Red Cross on how to galvanise volunteers and coordinate help to those who need it most.
Dowden said: “I know that many people across the country are wondering how they can help those who are more vulnerable, whether that’s delivering food to those isolating or simply being around for a chat on the phone.
“We will work with the sector experts to channel this fantastic outpouring of support and deliver help where it’s most needed.”
The government will release further details on its volunteering initiatives as soon as possible.
But voluntary sector leaders, including Vicky Browning, Jane Ide and Debra Allcock Tyler, the chief executives of, respectively, Acevo, Navca and the Directory of Social Change, called on the government to go further and ensure that charities were given the financial support they needed to be able to deliver volunteering programmes during a collapse in fundraising income.
The voluntary sector cannot do what it needs to do at this time of national crisis if it has gone bust. Charities and social enterprises need swift, simple and substantial funding now. "Whatever it takes" MUST cover charities @BorisJohnson @RishiSunak https://t.co/KGKgKSVzrn— Vicky Browning (@browning_vicky) March 19, 2020
- 900k employed in VCS— Jane Ide ?? (@Jane_NAVCA) March 19, 2020
- front line VCS crucial to immediate crisis response being planned by government
- wider sector will be critical to recovery phase
This is not soft & fluffy. We CANNOT let VCS fail, any more than business. Equitable treatment is all we ask. @RishiSunak https://t.co/sN1fD8EiRN
This is absolute bullshit! All those charities named are begging - BEGGING- govt to understand that we’re all about to go bust if they don’t step in and support financially. There won’t be any bloody charities around to help. So so angry at the blind idiocy of this! Get a grip! https://t.co/r0e1y3dP8P— Debra Allcock Tyler (@DebAllcockTyler) March 19, 2020