With our tremendous vaccine rollout having seen uptake rates of almost 90% for first jabs and over 80% for double jabs in the adult population, and with a booster programme underway, it is time to take advantage of these gains and get back to normality. However, the Government recognises that some have been more severely affected by Covid than others and has announced a number of measures to support families and businesses navigate the post-Covid recovery.
As the universal credit uplift and unprecedented furlough scheme which has supported the jobs of 11.6 million people comes to an end, the focus has now shifted to getting people into work. The Plan for Jobs includes a £2.9 billion Restart Scheme which is helping unemployed people find work and the £2 billion Kickstart Scheme which has already helped 69,000 young people find jobs. The labour market is performing more strongly than expected, with peak unemployment 2 million lower than forecast and job vacancies at record highs – the Plan for Jobs will help people capitalise on this.
Additional support for vulnerable households has also been announced in the form of the Household Support Fund. £500 million has been made available for local councils to distribute as small grants to those who need help meeting daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities.
This new fund will bolster existing measures such as increasing the national living wage, the rise in the Local Housing Allowance, expanding the £221 million Holiday Activities and Food Programme which will be offering nutritious meals and enriching activities to disadvantaged children this Christmas, doubling free childcare for eligible working parents and increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers by over a third. The Fund also sits alongside the Warm Home Discount which provides a £140 rebate on energy bills each winter to over 2.2 million low-income households and the Cold Weather Payment which provides £25 extra a week for poorer households when the temperature is consistently below zero.
I would encourage any constituents who think they might benefit from these measures to take up the support.