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8 September, 2020 Open access

Northern Ireland Assembly approves motion calling on the British Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond October 2020

MLAs also call for amendment of the scheme's deadlines to allow for new entries, including where businesses are forced to close as a result of clusters or further lockdowns

The Northern Ireland Assembly has approved a motion calling on the British Government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) beyond October 2020.

Introducing the motion to the Assembly yesterday, SDLP MLA Nicola Mallon said -

‘Families … across Northern Ireland, face a severe cliff edge. The facts are clear and stark: more than 330,000 people in Northern Ireland are receiving support from the Government through the furlough scheme and the self-employed support scheme. That is 330,000 families reliant on those schemes for the most basic of life's necessities.

Having also noted that the most senior civil servant in the Department for the Economy was candid enough to say that, by the end of this year, the unemployed claimant count in Northern Ireland could reach 100,000 people, Ms Mallon sought support from the Assembly to approve the call to extend the CJRS -

‘We know that Boris Johnson has already ruled out an extension of the furlough scheme. However, this is a Prime Minister who is well used to U-turns. So I am not resigned to the end of the furlough scheme becoming a reality in October. In fact, as an Assembly, we should be determined to avoid this disaster by making our position very clear. Let us speak with one united voice and send a message, loud and clear: extend the furlough scheme.’

Following a debate on the motion, in which MLAs expressed concern at the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on businesses and individuals, the motion was approved in the following terms -

‘That this Assembly recognises the significant impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on the public; notes that Department for the Economy projections show more than 100,000 people could be unemployed by the end of 2020; acknowledges that COVID-19 has continued to spread and may result in further restrictions on workers and businesses; expresses deep concern at the political decision to end the furlough scheme in October; and calls on the British Government to extend the furlough scheme to provide future support to businesses and workers, and to amend the scheme deadlines to allow for new entries to the scheme, including where businesses are forced to close as a result of clusters or further lockdowns.’

The Official report of the debate, COVID-19: Future Support for Businesses and Workers, is available from niassembly.gov.uk