The furlough scheme helped cover the wages of 8.4 million people in the UK, but the rules are set to change this week.
The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a huge part of the coronavirus pandemic, and most of us will at least know some people currently on furlough.
It’s estimated that furlough has now paid for 8.4 million people’s wages, costing the government £15 billion.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the scheme – set to end on October 31st – will have a series of changes to wind it down.
From Wednesday, July 1st, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and on any shift pattern, with the retention scheme grant paying for the hours not worked.
Then from August 1st, companies will be expected to pay employer national insurance and pension contributions and the level of the furlough grant will be reduced each month.
In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough.
Companies will have to pay NIC and pension contributions to top up the wages of those on furlough to ensure they are still receiving 80% of their wage. This will still be capped at £2,500 for the time they are furloughed.
In October, the government will pay 60% of wages, capped at £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough.
And again, employers will be expected to make their employees wages up to 80%, to a cap of £2,500, and pay NIC and pension contributions.
Despite the furlough scheme proving many people with a huge support system, many people have expressed concerns regarding the impending recession and what this means for unemployment.
The Prime Minister has reported that the government will spend on infrastructure to ‘build our way back to health’.
“If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences,” he said.
“We’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need.”
Spending on infrastructure could give some immediate ‘payback’ by increasing the number of people in work and the ‘amount of demand’ in the economy in the short term, according to the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson.
Johnson warned that the UK could return to ‘levels of unemployment we haven’t actually seen for decades’ if money is spent by the government in the wrong way, or done too quickly, adding it could result in ‘low-quality infrastructure projects which don’t pay for themselves’.
The Labour Party has commissioned an analysis of the potential unemployment levels, which could tip past the highest rate of 3.3 million that was seen under Margaret Thatcher’s government.
Many economists have warned that the full effects coronavirus will have on employment won’t be felt until the wage support scheme completely ends.
The Mayor of London has called upon the government to extend ‘the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme beyond the end of lockdown’, he Tweeted.
Adding: “or else risk unemployment, poverty and homelessness across the capital. This is urgent. The Govt must act.”
Wigan influencer couple launch ‘Giftmas Tree’ campaign for families struggling at Christmas
They aim to get a Christmas tree in every home in Greater Manchester that needs one
A couple from Wigan have launched a new campaign to ensure every child in Greater Manchester has a tree in their home so they can enjoy the magic of Christmas.
Martin Clarke and Rebecca Kane, a prankster influencer couple known as Martin and Bex, have made it their mission to ensure that no child misses out on festive cheer by having to go without a tree in their home this Christmas.
The pair have a following of over six million across social media platforms.
Dubbed ‘Giftmas Tree’, they came up with the idea for the initiative after one of their own children mentioned that someone at school could not afford a tree this year.
The cause is designed to not cost a penny to anyone who wishes to help, asking people to simply donate their unwanted Christmas trees to families who are struggling via the free to use site, Gumtree
Speaking to Wigan Today, Martin said: “We were made very aware of how difficult Christmas is going to be for some people this year, and whilst there are lots of amazing food and gift donation programmes around (which will be a massive help to all in need) we also know how important the magic of Christmas is.
“A Christmas tree is king in creating atmosphere and spreading a little sparkle in people’s homes during the season.
“We found two artificial trees in our loft which won’t be used and thought, ‘how can we make sure that people who need it get them?’
“That’s when we thought of Gumtree. You can sign up, post and collect items free of charge on the site, and it has regional search terms which means you won’t have to go far to pick up a donated tree. For us it was a no brainer.”
The pair have also reached out to a number of Christmas tree companies across Greater Manchester to encourage them to donate a tree, as well as members of the public.
The rehoming of unwanted Christmas trees is also a great way of preventing unnecessary added waste to the environment as well as spreading some festive joy around the homes of those less fortunate.
Bex told the news publication: “We want to spread the word and ask anyone with a spare tree – perhaps you might be buying a real one this year or have bought a bigger one this year – to put their unwanted trees on the site so we can help those who have no decorations in their homes feel more festive.
“We also just want to be really clear that this isn’t a paid brand campaign or anything like that: this is our idea. We want to help. It’s just that Gumtree is genuinely the easiest, quickest and totally free way to connect communities for something like this.”
If you would like to donate your artificial Christmas tree to the cause, you can grab the Giftmas Tree logo from Martin and Bex’s Instagram account @martinandbexofficial and upload it for free on Gumtree HERE.
Parents of toddlers will be able to apply for 15 hours of free childcare next year
The government confirmed the childcare scheme yesterday
The date that working parents of toddlers can apply for 15 hours of free childcare per week has been set for next year.
Applications for access to the free 15 hours per week will open on January 2nd, 2024 and eligible working parents are urged to apply.
The government says this is the ‘first step’ in its ‘long-term plan to give families a brighter future’.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt first announced the plans back in March this year in his budget. The government has now confirmed that working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access the free childcare from April next year.
With thousands of parents expected to apply for the new scheme, ministers advise those eligible to apply between mid-January and the end of February.
Further increases to government funding rates for childcare have also been confirmed in the announcement, meaning in 2024-25 alone the government is investing over £400 million to ‘deliver a significant uplift to local authority hourly rates, to ensure enough places are available wherever they’re needed around the country’.
The Department for Education has confirmed the national average hourly rates will be £11.22 for under twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three and four-year-olds from April – and are said to reflect the increase in National Living Wage from April 2024.
This will be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September next year.
From September 2025, working parents of children under five will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare per week.
A childminder grant – for newcomers to the profession – of £600 for those who register with Ofsted, and £1,200 for those who register with a childminder agency, has also been confirmed.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said ‘parents no longer have to choose between a career and a family’.
About the childcare scheme, she said: “From April next year, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of government-funded childcare a week, making sure parents no longer have to choose between a career and a family, and doubling down on this government’s commitment to getting more people into work and growing the economy.
“I know the delivery of this transformation is no easy task, which is why I am pushing ahead with increased funding rates across the country and up to £1,200 for new childminders, knocking down barriers to recruiting and retaining the talented staff that provide such wonderful care for our children.”
‘Loveable’ Wigan man dies after being pulled from canal as family pay tribute
His family also gave their condolences to his carer’s family and thanked emergency services
The family of Aaron Ritchie who tragically died after being pulled from a canal in Wigan Borough have paid tribute to him.
Emergency services rushed to the scene at the Leeds Liverpool canal at Crank Wood, Abram at approximately 2.15pm on Tuesday, November 28th, responding to calls that two males had entered the water and had come into difficulty.
Both men, aged 49 and 60, were retrieved from the canal by specialist personnel, as part of a large emergency response, as paramedics immediately conducted CPR.
The men were rushed to hospital but despite the best efforts of medical staff, sadly, both passed away later that day.
One of the men has been identified as 49-year-old Aaron Ritchie. He has been described by his family as a ‘loveable character’.
In a statement paying tribute to him, Aaron’s family said: “It’s come as a complete shock to us as a family surrounding the tragic accident of what happened on Tuesday afternoon. Aaron was a loveable character who made a big impression on everyone who knew him.
“Aaron had special needs and he loved the outdoor life and as long as he had his puzzles, laces and spinning tops he was happy. Aaron is surely going to be missed by us as a family.”
The family also passed on their condolences to his carer’s family and thanked emergency services for their rescue efforts.
The family added: “We would like to pass on our sincere condolences to his carer’s family and a special thank you to the emergency services who attended trying to save them.”
The 60-year-old man, Aaron’s carer, has not yet been named but police have said his next of kin have been informed. The two men’s deaths are not being treated as suspicious, police say.
Police are continuing to establish the circumstances behind their deaths, with a scene currently remaining in place in the area at the canal.