Tomorrow, Thursday 30th September, marks the end of furlough, the pandemic support measure which is still in place for 1.6 million workers. Tomorrow also sees the final payment for many of the extra £20-a-week in Universal Credit for struggling households, the top-up payment scheme officially ending on 6th October.
Helping employers retain staff during the pandemic, the furlough scheme came into effect on 20 April 2020. After 529 days it ends tomorrow. Since its launch, close to 12million jobs have been furloughed. The Government has paid a total of £68.5 billion to furloughed employees. Current figures show that 1.6 million jobs still being supported by the scheme.
As a consequence, it is expected that hundreds of thousands more workers will be looking for new jobs by the end of the week. ‘Older workers, who are the most likely to still be on furlough, face the greatest risk of unemployment,’ The Times reported in a research article ‘Furlough did a great job but thousands now face the sack’ which published earlier this week, on Monday 27th September.
Also, in response to the pandemic, a temporary £20 increase to Universal Credit payments was introduced. The scheme officially ends on 6 October, although the exact date the money will stop being paid will vary depending on the day recipients’ Universal Credits are received. For many this will mean the last additional £20 payment will be tomorrow. Charities, trade unions, religious groups, and MPs from all parties have called for an extension to this additional support. Without it, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates, 500,000 more people will be driven into poverty. The government has responded to criticism by arguing that as the economy opens up, the focus needs to shift to getting people back to work.