Fix ‘blind spot’ excluding workers from coronavirus support schemes, mayors say
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Ministers were urged to fix a “blind spot” excluding some 3 million people from coronavirus financial support schemes ahead of Christmas.
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said the Treasury appeared to be resistant to recognising the contribution of people missing out, such as the self-employed and freelancers.
Some three million people are estimated to have fallen through the cracks of Chancellor Rishi Sunak ’s coronavirus support schemes.
“There is a concern that we all share that the Treasury appears to have a blind spot when it comes to these particular sectors of the economy,” he told a cross-party parliamentary group.
“None of this is easy but there does appear to be a blind sport here… this situation is urgent for so many people around the country so we’ve got to keep going.”
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His comments came as regional leaders discussed the increasingly desperate situation of those excluded from COVID-19 support schemes in the run up to Christmas
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said those affected were suffering increased mental health problems amid the financial hardship of the pandemic.
He said: “Jobs, businesses and lives depend on a solution to this. We need to sort it out right away.
“The mental health crisis has grown all year. There is a mental health crisis that will exist beyond the pandemic and there is clear evidence that this failure to support excluded groups has had an impact.
“Only the Chancellor can bring these people in from the cold.”
It comes as a separate survey found one in 10 excluded people reported they were suffering from mental health issues.
Research by the group Organise found 11% of respondent affected highlighted mental health issues, with some opening up about depression and even thoughts about suicide.
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Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson, who will lead a Commons debate on the issue on Wednesday, said: “Nobody wants to wake up on Christmas knowing money’s too tight for their children’s presents.
“But that is the reality for millions excluded from emergency support because of a political decision made by this Chancellor.
“Ministers must find some Christmas spirit and not only stump up financial support but address the overwhelming number of people in need of mental health support.”
Mr Sunak has so far rebuffed calls for an overhaul of coronavirus support to help excluded people.
He told the Commons last week: “It is fair to say that I do not agree with the idea that those people have been excluded.
“The Government have provided support in many different ways to many people in different circumstances.
“We remain committed to that support throughout this crisis.”