Homerton had over 40 students quarantining who needed to be supported by student volunteers

Members of Homerton’s JCR committee, who were enlisted as unpaid volunteers by the College to help out with quarantining students have expressed immense anger towards the College after enduring multiple intense 7-hour shifts of manual labour.

While volunteers were originally meant to be compensated with free accommodation and hall food, they are now being rewarded £200 for their help.

Seb Kobler, Vice-President of the Homerton JCR told Varsity that volunteers “were given the impression that the position would be relatively relaxed, bringing food to people a few times a day, leaving free time to do university work.”

However, with over 40 students currently quarantining at Homerton, the work ended up involving around 10 full day shifts of carrying groceries, moving belongings from storage, and fixing different problems that arose, including a power outage and sinks not working.

“At no point was it clearly communicated by college that the role would involve all of these additional responsibilities that we have taken on,” one student volunteer detailed to Varsity. “We were often left to deal with problems that were beyond our resources, without much assistance from members of staff,” the student continued.

JCR members were expected to give welfare support by hosting a daily zoom call for quarantining students, which ended up falling through when volunteers became too busy and exhausted.

In one case, when WiFi was down, student volunteers found themselves delivering shopping up four flights of stairs, without any means to communicate with the quarantining students.

The volunteers were also responsible for organising meals for students who had missed the deadline for ordering hall food, the alternative being that quarantining students would have no food for the next day.

“In reality we were single handedly running the entire operation and on our feet, practically non-stop for 7 hours at a time,” said Kobler.

College staff also proved to be unhelpful, providing minimal support to helpers, a number of volunteers told Varsity. “When college ran into issues, with wifi, providing food, and water supplies, we bore the brunt both in terms of communication and finding solutions,” said another student volunteer.

The volunteers sent an email to the College Bursar, demanding both an acknowledgement of their work and a financial compensation. “We feel undervalued and unappreciated by college,” the email read, “some [volunteers] have worked five 7-hour shifts in the past week, which is broadly equivalent to a full working week.”

”The work we are carrying out for college is at the very least comparable to target & access work, for which college pays a casual worker hourly wage,” the email continued.

“Without us, college would not be able to fulfil its duty of care to quarantining students, which means the college has effectively outsourced their statutory requirements to unpaid students.”

In response, £200 was paid to each volunteer as a financial reward, or what the College Bursar described as a “token of appreciation”. Homerton’s bursar responded to the student volunteers’ concerns writing that “this turned out to be a bigger job than we [Homerton] imagined and the College is very grateful for your help.”


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“College had no idea themselves [of the amount of work that would be involved],” said Kobler. “It doesn’t really inspire confidence for later in term, when lots of people will probably be isolating.”

As of the 29th, Homerton will be using paid casual staff to carry out the work of the volunteering students.

Despite being rewarded with £200, the JCR members will not be financially compensated with an hourly rate. “Having worked around 50 hours each, college effectively paid us less than three pounds fifty an hour,” said one student volunteer, “and at no point apologised for the amount of stress caused to all involved, or the complete misplacement of responsibility on JCR members.”

Homerton College did not provide a comment when contacted by Varsity.