Government has missed 'multiple opportunities' to help ExcludedUK, says Centre Think Tank

A public inquiry should be held into why the Government missed “multiple opportunities” to include more people in the furlough and Self-Employed Income Support Schemes during the pandemic, according to a think tank.

The Centre Think Tank is based in London

The Centre Think Tank said there had been “serious Government failings” in response to the pandemic which have resulted in some taxpayers being excluded from meaningful support through no fault of their own.

The Government has said its package of economic support measures is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, protecting millions of jobs and the incomes of millions more during lockdowns imposed due to the pandemic.

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However, the Centre Think Tank, which also acts as a pressure group, said an inquiry must be held to find out how decisions were made that resulted in people being excluded from schemes.

It said: “One of these is how the £50,000 cap was implemented within the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme despite no similar cap existing within the furlough scheme.”

“There are multiple unanswered questions both on how people were excluded and why solutions were rejected,” the report said.

“The final task of such an inquiry would be to look at how we can prevent such issues from occurring again. The first of these is the issues with the PAYE system that resulted in people being excluded from support.

“Employees and self-employed individuals who were on the PAYE system were refused access to the furlough scheme or access to the Self- Employed Income Support Scheme.

"This issue was partly caused by the way the PAYE system collects information with some returns happening on a yearly basis and other returns happening monthly. This resulted in the newly self-employed being unable to access support which later had to be corrected by the Government...

"The second issue is with Universal Credit, which meant that some people were unable to access the Government income support schemes, and then found they were also not able to access Universal Credit.

“This meant they fell through two safety nets with nothing to support them. There may be recommendations on improving the UK’s social security systems during times of crisis with a particular focus on the Universal Credit system.”

The lack of support has been highlighted by MPs and multiple groups such as Excluded UK, which claims three million people have been denied meaningful Government support, the report said.

The Centre Think Tank’s report added: “Sadly, the UK Government has only recently included the newly self-employed to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

“Other than this, no other group has been added to either the furlough scheme or the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

“This leaves those who have been left out of the support schemes in a difficult situation without support and with a Government that seems unwilling to expand the income support schemes.”

"Overall, there were multiple missed opportunities to adopt workable solutions for those unable to access income support schemes.

"Unfortunately, the UK government only took one of these recommendations. In contrast, Northern Ireland showed that there was space for the UK Government to be more flexible in offering support to more groups such as limited company directors.

"Both the health and financial issues this caused for those unable to access the schemes and the Government's subsequent rejections of most of the proposals put forwards show the serious need for a public inquiry into how this occurred."

Responding to the think tank Report, a Treasury spokesman said: "Throughout this crisis our priority has been to protect lives and livelihoods.

“Our schemes have supported millions of jobs and the incomes of millions more.

“While we acknowledge it has not been possible to support everyone in the way they might want our schemes were designed to target support at those who need it most, while protecting public money against error, fraud and abuse.”

The spokesman added: "The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has helped to pay the wages of people in 11.4 million jobs across the country and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has received claims from 2.7 million self-employed workers.

"More people have become eligible for employment support schemes. The Government has moved the cut-off date on which employees need to be with their employer to be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. For claims starting on 1 May 2021, the cut-off date has been moved from 30 October 2020 to 2 March 2021.

"This means that those employed on 2 March 2021 are now eligible for CJRS if the other eligibility criteria are met. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant has been extended and is now based on 2019-20 tax returns. This has brought more self-employed people into the scope of the scheme, including many new to self-employment in 2019-20.

"Throughout this crisis, we have done all we can to support jobs and livelihoods through our £350 billion package of support, and our self-employed and furlough schemes are among the most generous in the world."

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