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Aid cuts have led to unexpected sackings and damaged partnerships, charities tell MPs

23 Jun 2021 News

Cuts to the UK's international development budget have led to redundancies and “strongly damaged long-term collaborative partnerships”, charities have told a parliamentary inquiry.

Plan International UK claims officials suggested development charities could save money by “avoiding redundancy pay” for overseas staff, according to its written evidence to the International Development Committee. 

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO) said: “This is factually incorrect and without evidence. The FCDO works closely with our partners to implement any changes to contracts and our suppliers are required to follow employment rules.”

The charity told Civil Society News that officials working for the FCDO had made the suggestion to some of its overseas partners.

The charity's written evidence was published last week, along with submissions by dozens of other aid charities, as part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into the future of aid. The submissions show that charities and their overseas partners have already been forced to lay off staff in response to deep cuts to the development budget.

Bond, the umbrella body for aid charities, has estimated that the government is cutting aid spending by more than £2.5bn this year, a move condemned as “devastating” by leading charities.

Redundancy

Writing about the effect of the cuts, Plan International UK said: “For staff, there are substantial impacts, particularly for those employed in countries where aid is delivered, where many are having to be made redundant unexpectedly. 

“[The] impact of the cuts on country staff’s wellbeing or circumstances has not been considered by FCDO. 

“We are aware of instances where officials have suggested avoiding redundancy pay for staff employed in-country to save costs. 

“The loss for organisations of a number of highly experienced staff is also significant.”

Describing the broader impact of falling government spending, Plan International UK’s evidence warned that “the UK’s sudden rollback on its commitments, and the way the cuts have been managed, has strongly damaged long-term collaborative partnerships and trust between the UK government and implementing partners built up over many years of work”.

Impact of cuts

Concern Worldwide UK also used its submission to warn that cuts will force the closure of some programmes, leading to staff redundancies.

The charity said that ending one programme in Bangladesh “will directly affect overall 260 staff within Concern Bangladesh and its implementation partners. 

“The early termination of the Concern-led PROSPER consortium will also lead to staff redundancies and the closure of four district offices.”

The Leprosy Mission England and Wales (TLM) told the MPs that “at least 14 members of TLM Nepal staff will be made redundant”. 

TLM added that more jobs will be at risk in Nepal unless new funding could be found to cover the costs of moving more staff to its central office, “which will [mean] increasing the budget considerably. Their positions will only be tenable if other funding sources are found”. 

The global disability charity Add International said that employees working in one of the most dangerous countries in the world face losing income and jobs.

Its submission pointed out that “in our Sudan country office, staff will lose more than 40% of their salaries for four months.

“This in the face of high inflation rates and dramatic increases in the price of all commodities, particularly essential items.

“Staff working on inclusive education for children with disabilities in Sudan will be dismissed.”

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