NET apologises after mistakenly advertising for unpaid grant advisers from minority backgrounds

The National Emergencies Trust has apologised after it mistakenly issued a job advert seeking grant advisers with “protected characteristics” and “lived experience in marginalised communities” who would work for the charity for free. 

In a Twitter thread posted on Friday morning, the anti-racism campaign group CharitySoWhite shared a screenshot of a job specification for the role of “equity assessment adviser” for the NET. 

The advertisement said the NET was “urgently seeking grant assessors with lived experience in marginalised communities with characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2019 to commit five hours per week in June to review several applications for grant funds and advise from an equities perspective".

The brief stated that roles were voluntary, but requested that applicants had “professional experience assessing grant applications/reviewing project budgets".

It added that “lived experience of social and economic marginalisation will be given due consideration if grant assessors choose to self-identify”. 

Criticising the move on social media, CharitySoWhite organisers said grant managers based in London earned an average of £44,000 a year, and called on the NET to “pay us for our time”. 

The group added that it was “awaiting clarification” from the NET that its distribution partner, UK Community Foundations, was being paid for grant assessments. 

“You can’t value lived experience but not put a £ sign against it," the group added. "It’s exploitative.”

Other sector bodies also criticised the advertisement. The Small Charities Coalition called on the NET to “respect contributions from all equally” and the umbrella body the Women’s Resource Centre flagged the “cruel irony of this exploitation”

The WRC said on Twitter: “That in an apparent attempt to get desperately needed funds to chronically underfunded marginalised groups those very people are being asked to work for free [...] is appalling.”

Earlier this week, Third Sector revealed that three BAME sector leaders had resigned from an equity working group set up by the NET in May, expressing concerns that their presence was simply to “validate decisions that had already been made".

In a statement to Third Sector, John Herriman, chief executive of the NET, said: “We have been exploring all opportunities to recruit grant-makers, both paid and unpaid. 

“Unfortunately, an advertisement was issued in error, without appropriate review and sign-off. This should not have happened. We understand why this would have caused concern and apologise for the error.

“We are 11 weeks into our first-ever appeal during an extremely complex crisis and are moving at pace to ensure that urgent needs around the UK can be met.

“However, we also recognise significant injustices exist within our society and are currently taking the opportunity to reflect on our approach to the next stage of the appeal. 

“We are deeply committed to ensuring that the way we operate reflects the communities we serve.”

In a comment sent to Third Sector before the NET said the advertisement had been issued in error, CharitySoWhite organisers said: “This kind of pay disparity comes from knee-jerk, tokenistic responses and reinforces the socio-economic barriers that keep the marginalised communities they are purporting to reach out of the sector. 

“If the charity sector wants to do better, it needs to take an anti-oppression lens and embed this in its working practices. It must do the work of dismantling the values, the structures and the behaviours that uphold the structures that discriminate in this way.” 

It also urged anyone thinking of making a donation to the NET’s Covid-19 Appeal via the replay of the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany, airing on Channel 4 this weekend, to reconsider. 

“We do not trust that the funds raised will be distributed to the communities most targeted by this crisis,” the CharitySoWhite statement said.

“We are asking all those considering supporting the NET this weekend to support either Resourcing Racial Justice or Black Lives Matter UK."

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