The UK Community Partner Network (UKCPN) is interested in exploring the different ways universities can pay and support people to get involved in working in partnership on projects and research.
Paying members of the public or organisations is not straightforward and many universities work hard to simplify things and help people navigate procedures. It’s apparent from conversations with both academics and community partners that there is little consistency within individual universities and virtually no national approach or guidelines.
Universities are large organisations and finance teams are often not located in the departments delivering projects. Research council rules, employment law, the tax and National Insurance rules and very complicated claims systems conspire to make paying people difficult. From getting expenses for bus tickets for volunteers to invoicing for services, processes can seem daunting and disempowering. Steve Pool, artist and UKCPN member, asked people from the UKCPN to outline the different approaches they have encountered, share the pros and cons of each method. Please contribute your own experiences and leave your comments below.
1. University payroll
This happens if your involvement with the university is classed as teaching.
People will have to register on a complex system through a series of forms. The first time you are paid in this way you will be asked to clarify your employment status. If you are recognised as self-employed you should not get taxed or have to pay national insurance at source. Payment comes in the month that the forms go in but this is often delayed. Once you are on this system and have relevant codes and numbers payment becomes more straightforward.
2. As a Named Supplier
Individuals or organisations become registered suppliers for a university - often the finance team will have to “raise an order” through the main university finance office – you can then invoice against this order number. Getting on the system can take a while but once you are registered things are easier to navigate. It is important to consider VAT when quoting for services, this is often not accounted for within project proposals. Most universities will only allow invoicing after the work or a stage of the work is complete, advance payments can be a problem. In some cases community partners are paid as consultants and contracted as such.
3. Expenses form
Claiming back expenses via a non-staff claims form is often the preferred approach to small amounts of money. The fund is often held within the department or faculty you are working with and it’s easier to chase things up with people you know. Often the forms don’t seem to cover what you actually have to claim for but the system works well for small amounts of money (each university has a different allowable amount on this system). If you have cash flow problems it’s worth asking if the university can purchase things like train tickets for you in advance as it can take as long as 7 weeks to process these claims. If the claim is for time or services recent legislation means you will probably have to show your passport or permission to work to someone within the department.
4. An Honorarium
A payment made without the giver recognising themselves as having any liability or legal obligation made to a person for their services in a volunteer capacity or for services for which fees are not traditionally required. A single payment not directly linked to services is given to an individual or an organisation in recognition of the work they will do on a project or consultation.
5. Third party organisation
A third party organisation often with a good track record of working with the university manages funds. In this instance an amount is given to the company either through a grant (Brunswick agreement) or an invoice for services. This organisation can then pay expenses or fees according to its own guidelines and procedures. In these agreements it is important to consider any conflicts of interests and tax implications that may arise from third party agreements from the outset of a project.
This research has raised some interesting ideas around value. Many projects have worked successfully through a system of exchange of ideas, services and knowledge without the use of money. In many cases however community groups need to access funding if they are to engage with the research community as there resources are already stretched. We are interested to hear from people involved in community-university partnership work with ideas, suggestions and information - please leave a comment below.