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New employment support schemes welcome but not enough to avoid mass redundancies

Law Centre NI has welcomed Thursday’s announcement of new coronavirus employment supports, but has warned they are not sufficient to avoid mass redundancies and significant hardship this winter.

Law Centre NI, Policy Officer Jack Gibson said: “Thursday’s announcement of new employment supports will be a relief to many. Rising infection rates and a new wave of restrictions will impact the economy, so replacing the current support schemes – which were due to close at the end of October – was essential.

“However, we are concerned that the supports announced on Thursday do not go far enough to avoid an increase in the already unprecedented levels of redundancy we are seeing.

“Since the UK Government began cutting back the level of support offered under the furlough scheme in July, the number of calls relating to redundancy on our advice lines have more than doubled. The latest statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also show a steep rise in the number of redundancies confirmed in this period.

“It seems clear that the rate of redundancies is closely linked to the level of support offered. Since the new Job Support Scheme offers a much lower level of support to employers than is currently in place, we believe redundancy rates will rise sharply as a result.

“We are also concerned that the level of support offered to the self-employed under the extended Income Support Scheme is simply too low for many. The result of these policies is that many more people – employees and the self-employed – will suffer significant hardship and will be forced into the benefits system this winter.

“We do not believe this outcome is inevitable. We urge the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive alike to consider the long-term damage this will do to our economy and to people’s lives and to explore all options to avert it.”