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Jobs to go at debt charity – despite increased demand for debt advice

Written by: Emma Lunn
StepChange plans to cut about 170 jobs due to cuts in funding.

But critics says the redundancies are ‘counterproductive’ as the ending of the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, debtor payment holidays and temporary benefit uplifts are anticipated to result in a surge in demand for debt advice.

Union Unite said StepChange’s ‘panicked’ plans to make about 10% of its 1,500 strong workforce redundant would result in the charity being overwhelmed as the differing forms of financial support for the Covid-19 pandemic come to an end.

The charity receives funding based on the amount of people it helps, but this has fallen due to the pandemic relief measures. In response to the fall in numbers, Step Change chief executive Phil Andrew said the job losses are ‘in the short term… cutting our cloth to fit’.

Phil Boyes, Unite regional officer, said: “StepChange is rushing into panicked plans for redundancies that will prove counterproductive once furlough and other pandemic support measures come to an end.

“The charity knows that it will be overwhelmed once demand picks up. That is why it is trying to introduce backup digital only services that will prove completely inadequate for the many vulnerable people who get in touch with StepChange for help. We also have reason to believe that StepChange will begin hiring again shortly after demand increases.

“Chief executive Phil Andrew said these cuts are causing a ‘high degree of pain for us as a caring employer’. If this is true, we call on StepChange to stop ignoring Unite and work with the union to find a solution to avoid these unnecessary and ill-thought through redundancies.

“For instance, there is no reason whatsoever that under threat staff cannot be furloughed until September, when it is expected that demand for StepChange’s services will rocket. Our members have also put forward proposals for voluntary redundancies and temporary pay cuts, all of which have been ignored by management.

“StepChange is there to help people, so what does it say about the charity’s leadership when it decides to target staff and damage services because it’s the most convenient short-term option?”

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