'Government must act to help up to 800,000 people who have been refused furlough'

THE Government must take a new approach to help up to 800,000 people who have been refused furlough, according to a think tank.

The Centre Think Tank has produced a draft white paper with solutions that it believes would help to provide financial support to people who have been either refused access to, or excluded from, the Government’s income support schemes.

Torrin Wilkins, the report’s author, said: “I would like the Government to include a new route for employees to access the furlough system. This would use the existing system but would include new access points for individual employees to both claim furlough in the future and to allow employees to receive backdated payments.

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“It would ensure equality for as many extra people as possible while trying to work off the existing systems the Government already has in place.”

Rishi SunakRishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Mr Wilkins added: “We calculated that a maximum of 800,000 people have been refused furlough by their employer and these people are unable to apply for furlough themselves. I spoke to lots of people when writing this paper who were refused furlough."

“There are so many groups ranging from people with health conditions to working mothers to those people in companies that have pointed out health and safety concerns.

“The emotional distress this has caused has been coupled with financial hardships as well.

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"Some have been unable to access universal credit and others are struggling to get by even if they managed to access the system. These are the people that we are supposed to be supporting during this pandemic yet they have been left behind."

Mr Wilkins added: "There are people struggling in every area of the country after being refused from furlough and Yorkshire is no exception.

"The number of people who have been refused is also increasing all the time. However, what we do know is that a share of those people who were refused furlough live or work in (Chancellor) Rishi Sunak's own constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire. Its time for him to do something about the issue and ensure more people are included in his schemes, including those in his own constituency."

Responding to the points raised in the report, a Treasury spokesperson said: “Our self-employed and furlough schemes are among the most generous in the world and have protected over 12 million jobs since the start of the pandemic.

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"Funding is designed to target those who need it most and protect the taxpayer against fraud and abuse. Those not eligible may still be able to access our loans schemes, tax deferrals, mortgage holidays and business support grants.”

"We’ve invested £280bn throughout the pandemic to protect millions of jobs and businesses - and extended our self-employed and furlough schemes through to April to give businesses the certainty they need to plan over the winter months.

The spokesperson added: "We have done all we can to help as many people as possible; but for those that have not been eligible it has often been for reasons like mitigating the risk of fraud.

"Around 95 per cent of those with more than half their income from self-employment in 2018-19 could be eligible for the SEISS Grant Extension Grant,'' the spokesperson said.

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"Those who receive at least half of their income from working as an employee, and that work would make them eligible for support from government schemes such as the furlough scheme.

"There will also be a fourth grant covering February to April 2021. The Government will set out further details, including the level of the fourth grant, in due course.

"We invested billions in strengthening our welfare safety net, ensuring it’s more generous and accessible for those who need it.

"The temporary welfare measures include a £20 per week increase to the universal credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element. We increased the Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants and relaxed the universal credit minimum income floor."

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