U.K. Could Help 1.5 Million Crisis-Hit Workers at a Modest Cost
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. could offer help for over a million people currently left out of income support programs at relatively little cost, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
While the government’s aid programs have drawn praise for preventing a large spike in unemployment during the crisis, pressure to address the flaws in the system is mounting ahead of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s March budget.
Excluded groups include the 1.3 million workers who get less than half of their income from self-employment and the 225,000 people who earn profits in excess of 50,000 pounds ($69,000), both of which could be added without much difficulty, the IFS said in a report Wednesday.
Expanding existing government help to include the first group, as well as extending payments to people who have profits of as much as 90,000 pounds in a tapered manner, would cost around 1 billion pounds per quarter, the IFS found. That’s about 5% of the total spent helping the self employed so far.
“It is hard to believe it would be significantly less well targeted than the current Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and it would certainly support a significant number of people facing financial difficulties,” the report said.
While the government insists people can fall back on government welfare payments, the application process can be lengthy, and many miss out due to their existing savings, which have to be run down before the benefits, known as Universal Credit, can be claimed.
Almost 4 million adults, or 7%, have been left out of income replacement programs and are not claiming Universal Credit, according to a separate YouGov survey commissioned by the Standard Life Foundation. Of those, 1.8 million have lost at least a third of their household income and 63% said they are struggling to pay their bills.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.