Plaid Cymru Shadow Economy Minister Helen Mary Jones MS has called on the Welsh Government to step in to help those who are ineligible for the Westminster Government’s job retention scheme
People who have missed out on the Westminster’s Government Job Retention Scheme are having to “live off credit cards” to get by.
On Tuesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extension to the Job Retention Scheme as early as tomorrow – but with the Westminster Government only paying 60% of an employee’s wages rather than 80%.
However millions of people are ineligible for the support and are also unable to claim Universal Credit – leaving them without any income. A recent survey undertaken by the New Starter Furlough Campaign showed that 83% of respondents had been unable to receive any support through Universal Credit.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Helen Mary Jones MS said the situation was “desperate and unsustainable” warned the Westminster Government not to take a blind eye and called upon them to provide “crucial support” to those who had fallen through the net.
James Horton from Bridgend is one such person who is ineligible for the Job Retention Scheme. Having started a new job prior to the cut off point, internal processes meant he wasn’t on their PAYE payroll in time, and he finds himself without income. While he knows he’s not the only one, he admitted that he and his family are living off credit cards and he says that they “just don’t know how long this can go on for.”
On Wednesday, Wales’ Economy Minister Ken Skates said that 74% of businesses are participating in the Job Retention Scheme – the highest percentage uptake of any of the four home nations of the UK.
Ms Jones said if the Westminster Government couldn’t deliver then the Welsh Government should “step up and provide a Welsh solution” to the problem.
James Horton, who is ineligible for the support offered, said:
“Having worked for SWALEC (SSE) for 4 years I was offered a new job with a similar company at the start of February. I started my new job on 16th March, and headed to their headquarters in England for my training. While I was there, the UK wide lockdown was announced and I had to get the first train back to South Wales.
“Soon after, my new employer contacted me to say that I’d been put on temporary leave, but there was talk of a furlough scheme. Unfortunately it soon became clear that I wouldn’t be eligible, because they ran their March payroll on 10th March and I only joined on 16th March. I found out they could only claim if I was on their PAYE payroll on or before 19th March 2020. They were told they’d be committing fraud if they claimed on me!
“My wife and I rely on my wage to live. We have a mortgage, children, bills and a car to run. She’s a key worker the NHS and she’s having to work longer hours. I really worry about her catching coronavirus.
“In desperation, I contacted SWALEC (SSE) but they said they weren’t in the right position financially to be able to help me. I went as high up the chain as I could, and I even contacted my local MS, MP and I even wrote to Rishi Sunak! Helen Mary Jones, my Member of Senedd, was the only one who got back to me and I’d like to thank her for listening to my story.
“I just want people to see how unfair it is. I’ve done nothing wrong, and I know I’m not the only one, but that’s not going to put food on the table. We’re living off credit cards, and I just don’t know how long this can go on for.”
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Helen Mary Jones MS said,
“Thousands of Welsh households are falling through the cracks in the Westminster Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and also unable to claim Universal Credit.
“These people, through no fault of their own, are dangerously close to defaulting on their rent or mortgage payments.
“The stories of people like James are all too common. The situation is desperate and unsustainable. It can’t go on like this.
“The Westminster Government must act now to provide crucial support to these people who have fallen through the net. To turn a blind eye would be callous.
“But if they fail, the Welsh Government must step up and provide a Welsh solution to this problem. Prove that you’ll stand up for Wales and give these people the hope and support that they both need and deserve.”