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21 December, 2020 Open access

Almost three million people may have been excluded from the CJRS and SEISS, yet the government failed to evaluate the schemes or make any substantial changes before extending them

Select Committee also highlights that HMRC does not know the actual level of fraud and error in the schemes and has prioritised speed over transparency and ensuring value for money

The Public Accounts Committee has expressed concern that almost three million people may have been excluded from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), and yet the government has failed to evaluate the schemes or to make any substantial changes before extending them.

In a new report, Covid-19: Support for jobs, the Committee acknowledges that HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) showed great agility in implementing the CJRS and SEISS quickly in response to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). However, it goes on to find that the Departments have not done enough to reduce the number of people who have been excluded from the schemes.

Estimating that as many as 2.9 million workers were excluded from the first phase of the CJRS and SEISS up to the end of October 2020, the Committee points out that the government failed to use the time between the two national lockdowns to evaluate and develop the schemes to make sure that assistance was provided to all those who needed it.

Also expressing concern that HM Treasury has said it is unable to provide 'even a ballpark official figure' for the cost of extending the schemes, or to provide an estimate of the level of fraud and error in the schemes until the end of 2021, the Committee sets out a series of recommendations including that the government should -

Commenting on the report, Committee Chair Meg Hillier said - 

'With billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money going into private companies to support jobs, the least we expect in return is transparency. That is doubly so when speed has been prioritised over effectively targeting support, or checks on the value it offers.

With the Treasury claiming it can’t give even a ballpark figure for the cost of Covid job support until the end of next year, public scrutiny of where taxpayers’ money is going is essential. We want to see the list of the companies that have taken furlough money much sooner than that – in the next six weeks.”

Many workers including freelancers and entrepreneurs have not had a penny and are really struggling as they continue to fall through the gaps. There is data that could be crunched to reach and help these individuals, many of whom will be unable to work at all under tier 3 restrictions.'

For more information, see Name companies that have taken furlough money, says Committee from parliament.uk