UNISON sets up special coronavirus fund

UNISON has set up a special fund for members who are finding life hard because of the coronavirus crisis.

There for You is the union’s unique charity, set up to help members in difficulties. Now the union has set up a special fund to respond to calls for help needed especially because of the pandemic, with £250,000 set aside to help members.

Charity trustee and NEC member Carol Sewell said: “For a number of weeks we have been looking at how we can support our members in this time of need. We need to ensure we’ve got money that can support people immediately.”

The fund was set up because the charity receives donations, but at present, branches are finding that more difficult.

For instance, Carol said: “Branches can’t operate normally. A cheque might need two signatories and the lockdown makes that really difficult for one person to do. Logistics at the moment are really quite difficult.”

The fund has been established to help UNISON members in immediate financial difficulty due to coronavirus. The union can provide a one-off grant of £250 to help with essential expenses such as food and bills.

To be eligible for a COVID-19 grant the following must apply:

  • You or your partner have suffered a reduction in earnings as a result of the coronavirus crisis which has put you in financial difficulty; or
  • You or your partner are a key worker with increased work-related costs as a result of the crisis, e.g. transport, care, or laundry costs.

You must also:

  • Be a UNISON member with at least four weeks membership and have paid your subscriptions;
  • Have savings of less than £800;
  • Apply for any statutory help you might be entitled to.

Carol Sewell herself appreciates the problems for members. She suspects she’s had COVID-19 herself – certainly, she can tick off a clutch of the symptoms.

“Headache, aching body, very lethargic and not eating – because I’ve had symptoms, I haven’t been able to work.”

She’s back in harness now though – working from home for her local authority.

“I live with my mum … she’ll come and have a little chat with me, bless her,” she says.

As a trustee, her background working for the local benefits office helps. “When someone asks you for help, they’re desperate,” says Carol, so she’s behind this new fund 100%.

“We need to give the praise to Julie and the members of the team for all the work they’re doing,” she observes. “They’re so dedicated. It makes me so happy that we can support people.”

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