Coronavirus

How we include the excluded

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Over the coming months, Backbench will be partnering with Torrin Wilkins, Director of Centre Think Tank for a series of comment pieces. In his column, Torrin will explore prominent policy issues – some of them related to the latest news and others related to his longer-term projects. We’d love for Backbench readers and commentators to respond to Torrin’s policy analysis and ideas, so if you would like to contribute a response, please email editor@bbench.co.uk.  

Please note that all the views expressed in Torrin’s articles are those of Torrin himself and do not necessarily represent the standpoint of Backbench. 

Over the past few weeks, I have started on a tour across the UK with the Excluded Unity Alliance. The reason for these events is that the government has left millions of people out of its income support schemes. Without support they have been left often struggling with debt, mental health issues or even struggling to put food on the table.

Overall, we think almost six million people are in this position and yet the government hasn’t helped them. They have been forgotten during the largest pandemic we have seen for decades, often with no income and no support.

This is why I have been working within Centre to find solutions for these groups and we have already proposed a huge number. For those employees excluded from the furlough scheme we proposed a backdated payment which would support them properly. The other group is the self-employed where there are multiple groups that have been excluded, from those kept out by the £50,000 to those excluded by the 50% rule. We included these groups within our paper, excluded to included.

Other schemes are also available to the government with the schemes in Northern Ireland (which included more groups) and the Welsh schemes including those helping those in the creative industries. The Directors Income Support Scheme (DISS) and the Targeted Income Grant Scheme (TIGS) were also discussed with the government but the plans weren’t accepted. After all of these plans, the government still hasn’t included most of those who have been excluded.

That’s why these events with the Excluded Unity Alliance are so important. So far we have been in Liverpool and London speaking to those affected and increasing awareness amongst members of the public. We are quickly reaching more people and hearing more stories from those that are excluded. It’s also helping to galvanise the support of MPs towards finding a solution for these groups.

In terms of finding solutions that the government will accept, there are still avenues that need to be explored. One is the bounce back loans given out to businesses struggling after the pandemic which could be improved to make it easier for businesses struggling to pay them back. Another is a UK wide scheme similar to the scheme which helped the creative industries in Wales. The main thing with all of this is that we continue to listen to those who are excluded, and we keep our options open in terms of solutions to support them.

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