The furlough scheme, which has contributed towards the wages and salaries of millions of workers during the coronavirus pandemic, has today come to an end.
The coronavirus support scheme, officially the Job Retention Scheme, was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak back at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, has supported around 11.6 million workers and cost nearly £70bn.
On the closing of the scheme, Mr Sunak said he was ‘immensely proud’ of the support, though the minds of many have now turned to the future which is uncertain. According to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around 1 million people are thought to be on the scheme at the time of its conclusion, prompting fears that many may now face redundancies.
While almost all coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in the UK, some parts of the economy are still attempting to recover from the pandemic after being badly impacted by multiple lockdowns. The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to extend the scheme for industries badly affected by the pandemic, such as aviation.
The Job Retention Scheme was seen at its launch as an unprecedented and major intervention to protect people’s livelihoods during the pandemic and while its end brings uncertainty, this had been expected for some time.
The Government has insisted that it is continuing to support people through its Plan for Jobs. A new support package for vulnerable households has also been announced, with £500m available through small grants to help people with essentials such as food and utilities.