As a nation, we rely on the public and charitable services which are available to us and it is vital that they meet our needs. Yet government rules freeze people out of contributing meaningfully to the development of these services.

This includes people at the sharp end of government cuts to spending (often called austerity) and those with lived experience of relying on the help of charities, to anyone who uses council services or is in education.

Tax rules and benefits regulations mean that it is difficult for charities, local government, universities and other providers to pay people to give their honest opinions on the services they rely on. Payment for this expertise or advice is often referred to as remuneration.

John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union (SWU), said“The work of the Austerity Action Group is an important aspect to the campaigning work we do at SWU. There have always been complex difficulties for organisations to pay people with lived experiences for their time and expenses and who take part in co-production / participation activities without them losing out on their entitlement to benefits. The research highlights this and further interventions are required so not to penalise the very people who are needed to shape services and offer advice and participation.”

Get involved in our campaign

Thank you for expressing an interest in helping our campaign for fair remuneration for people like yourselves.

We’re asking you to help our campaign in three ways:

Please let us know how you get on. You can email aag@swu-union.org.uk.

If you see text bold and italicised, please make sure you delete this and replace it with something personalised before you send your email, letter or social media post.

Send a letter to your Member of Parliament (MP)

Each MP represents the people living in their local area (called a constituency). It’s an MPs job to listen to the public and hearing from you will encourage MPs to take action and their support will, in turn, make our campaign more likely to succeed.

Find details of your MP online at https://www.writetothem.com/ and then use the online form this site provides to send your letter.

Alternatively, you can look up your MP’s contact details and send a physical letter: https://members.parliament.uk/members/commons

We suggest your letter uses the template below:

Dear Insert Name of MP

As a nation, we rely on public and charitable services to meet our educational, health and social care needs.

Increasingly, government is rightly mandating the inclusion of citizens’ experiences and views if these essential services are to be allowed to operate. This includes the design of qualifying courses for doctors, nurses and social workers, council services and other charitable activities.

However, government rules freeze people like me with lived experience out of providing their time and expertise in the development of these vital services.

Arcane tax rules and complex benefits regulations mean that it is difficult for charities, local government, universities and other providers to remunerate people who want to help shape and improve services.

A recent survey of those taking part in these research or involvement opportunities found that accepting a lessened rate of payment or only accepting out of pocket expenses, happened to over a third (35%) of respondents. In 22% of cases, there was no payment made at all.

Please can you join with charities and campaigners in calling for the government to make simple, but vital, changes in the forthcoming budget statement:

- Make two minor alterations to tax rules to ensure participating in research and service delivery, training and charitable activity consultations are explicitly exempt from income / PAYE tax. (This involves extending for exemptions on declarable income contained in EIM71005 and clarifying the wording of EIM71100).

- Ensure there is clarity for all DWP / job centre / benefits staff that this earnings exemption also applies to income assessed for benefits thresholds.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Insert your name

Write to your local paper

If you know the name of your local paper, visit their website or pick up a copy and note the email address to send letters or news stories.

If you are not sure which is your local paper, there are lists of local papers online: http://www.localmediauk.org/A-Z-Newsbrands - all of them should provide a contact email address online.

Send your letter as an email, with the subject line: Letter for Publication - action on arcane tax rules needed now.

Please note, not all letters published in a paper are also published online, so look out for the next edition of the paper!

Sample letter to local paper

Dear Editor,

People living in challenging circumstances aren’t able to have their say on services affecting them due to arcane tax rules, campaigners have found.

Many organisations such as charities, local government and universities work with people with lived experience of issues such as poverty and homelessness to shape and improve their services.

However, research by the Austerity Action Group found that many people giving their advice and expertise through research and involvement opportunities said they accepted a reduced rate of payment for their time or only took expenses due to worries that remuneration for their expertise would affect their benefits or tax.

Insert a short paragraph about your own views on the issue.

I support the broad range of charities, campaigners and individuals which have now written to the Government to make simple changes to arcane tax and benefit rules to ensure we are fairly remunerated for our expert insight.

Best wishes,

Insert your name and address. Add a note if you wish your address to be withheld.

Send out social media content

If you have personal social media accounts, please feel free to share a post along the lines of:

Twitter:

I support the Austerity Action Group campaign #LivedExperienceFairRemuneration to change the rules so people living in challenging circumstances can have their say. Find out more about this issue: https://www.basw.co.uk/social-workers-union/lived-experience-fair-remune...

Other social media channels:

Many organisations such as charities, councils and universities work with people with lived experience of issues such as poverty and homelessness to shape and improve their services. Best practice is that participants are paid for their expertise, but this often doesn’t happen due to arcane tax rules and complex benefits procedures.

Find out more about this issue from the #LivedExperienceFairRemuneration campaign: https://www.basw.co.uk/social-workers-union/lived-experience-fair-remune...

If you do write to your MP, you could also find out their Twitter address and post something along the lines of:

I’ve written to @MPTwitterHandle, calling for them to support the #LivedExperienceFairRemuneration campaign to change arcane tax rules stopping people from having their say on services they use.

If you do write to your local paper, you could also find out their Twitter address and post something along the lines of:

I’ve written to @NewspaperTwitterHandle, explaining what the #LivedExperienceFairRemuneration campaign hopes to achieve by changing arcane tax rules stopping people from having their say on services they use.