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29 May 2020

Daily briefing with Rishi Sunak and Stephen Powis – self-employment support scheme extended and details on changes to the furlough scheme


Chancellor Rishi Sunak includes the following key points in his statement, beginning with updates on the latest figures. Sunak says, 'Over the coming weeks, we can now take careful but deliberate steps to reopen our economy.' He says that as we enter this new phase 'things will change'. He recaps existing support measures. 'No British government, Labour or Conservative, has ever done anything like this.' He says there is broad consensus across the political and economic spectrum that the furlough scheme can’t continue indefinitely. He outlined the principles 2 weeks ago and is giving more details today. The scheme will continue as before in June and July, in August the taxpayer contribution to wages will stay at 80% and employers will be asked to pay National Insurance and employer pension contributions, in September taxpayers will pay 70% of the furlough grant and employers 10%, in October taxpayers will pay 60% and employers will contribute 20%. Then the scheme will close. The government is introducing a more flexible furlough from 1 July 2020, a month earlier than originally planned. The old scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June; employers wanting to place new employees on the scheme need to do so by 10 June.

Rishi Sunak confirms the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) will be extended, with applications opening in August for a second and final grant (which will work in the same way as the first). 'To maintain the sense of fairness alongside the job retention scheme' the final grant will be 70%. 'Otherwise, there will be no changes and no further extensions to the schemes, which continue to be some of the most generous in the world.' He acknowledges that 'we haven’t been able to support everyone in the exact way they would want' and understands that some people have felt frustrated. He says you are not forgotten and recaps other support measures introduced. 'Not everything will look the same as before.' The government will develop new measures to grow the economy, back business, boost skills, and help people thrive in 'the new post-COVID world'. 'Today, a new national collective effort begins: to reopen our country and kickstart our economy.'

Q&A key points include the following. In response to a question about the Joint Biosecurity Centre and why restrictions are being lifted when the alert level is still level 4, Stephen Powis, Medical Director of NHS England, says the centre is currently under development and is setting itself up with advice from government departments. It is feeding information even at this early stage to the four chief medical officers who have to think about alert levels in the UK. Powis says it is important for the NHS to link in to the centre. Several media questions focus on the furlough scheme. Responding to one of these, Rishi Sunak says 'despite this extraordinary and significant intervention' the government can’t protect every job, every business. We are in a better place than we otherwise would have been. But 'there will be hardship ahead for many' and he is very conscious of that. The government will work to get people back into work. Sunak later confirms the scheme will end in October. There are other questions from the media on lifting the restrictions and the alert level.


Gov.uk speech