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Salvation Army workers still waiting on £500 Covid recognition payment


Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Salvation Army workers who supported the most disadvantaged in society throughout the pandemic are still waiting on their £500 Covid recognition payment.

One worker told the Belfast Telegraph she urgently needs the money in order to pay household bills but is “losing hope” of ever getting it.

“Every month I sit hoping I’m going to get this payment in my wages,” she said.

“I need that money to pay my bills, it’s not to go on a holiday. I needed it months ago and I’m beginning to lose hope that it will ever come.”

Most of her colleagues, she explained, are earning just above minimum wage and feeling the financial squeeze. 

“You don’t do this job for the wage, I know people who have left to work in supermarkets. Unless you really love the work you won’t stay and I know colleagues who’ve left because they can’t afford to stay any longer,” she said.

Workers in the independent sector and trade unions had to campaign to be included in the scheme which saw medical and healthcare staff rewarded for their hard work during the pandemic.

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In July 2021, Deirdre Hargey announced that as many as 4,500 workers were to receive a special recognition payment of up to £500.

The Communities Minister gave a direction for officials to put a process in place for staff working within the Supporting People and Homelessness sectors to receive an offer of a one-off £500 recognition payment.

Unison Community Branch Chairperson Niall McCarroll said it was “disappointing” to learn that its members who work for the Salvation Army have still not received their payment.

He described the delay as “totally unacceptable” and damaging to staff morale. 

“Workers in the Salvation Army are no different than others being low paid, struggling to get by and now find themselves in hardship due to the ongoing cost of living crisis. These workers need this payment now,” he added.

The NI Housing Executive (NIHE), as the department’s delivery partner, has been responsible for carrying out screening on the detail and implementation of this policy.

NIHE said the scheme is being progressed in two phases with the first involving payments to Supporting People providers in respect of staff currently employed.

Phase two, which will soon be launched, will involve payments being made for agency employees and a small number of other categories. To date almost £1m has been paid out to Supporting People funded providers, representing approx. 90% of claims received, NIHE said.

The verification process for phase one continues for a small number of providers, including The Salvation Army, where additional information was requested.

A meeting is being arranged for next week to clarify some “outstanding issues”.  Payment to the providers, for onward payment to staff, can then be made, NIHE said.

A Salvation Army spokesperson recognised the “vital role” played by its staff during the pandemic. A spokesperson said it contacted staff recently to explain that those eligible for the £500 recognition payment would receive it as soon as the funding was allocated to the charity from the Supporting People Programme.

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