The Furlough Scheme Is Ending Soon. Here’s How To Prepare.

The furlough scheme (which was first established in March 2020) is set to officially end soon, as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plan to ‘wind-down’ support that was offered at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Although the majority of businesses have reopened following lock-down(s), some employers are still using the furlough scheme. Just one example is to manage time off, due to self-isolation.

According to the personal finance experts over at money.co.uk, if you’re going to be affected by the furlough scheme ending, NOW is the time to start your financial preparations for the remainder of this year, and beyond.  

James Andrews, a Senior Personal Finance Expert at money.co.uk, said: “Although furlough is not as widely used as it was at the height of the pandemic, ending it still sees a risk that people will be made redundant, or lose out on work that’s no longer supported by the Government.” 

“If you’re set to be impacted by the loss of furlough payments, it’s essential to act now, by applying for any support schemes, loans, or grants that you may need to keep yourself level. They often take weeks to be approved, so now’s the time to act, – before the furlough payments stop for good,” he added.

One option for support is Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), – which is a benefit for people who not in full-time employment (or who work less than 16 hours per week), who are fully capable of working, and are actively seeking work. JSA’s eligibility will depend on whether you paid enough National Insurance contributions whilst you were employed.

It’s not a ‘means-tested’ benefit, so what you are paid will not be affected by how much money you have in the bank, or your personal circumstances. To apply, head here here (and don’t forget to grab your National Insurance number, your bank or building society account details, your employment details for the past six months, and your private pension statement letter. You’ll need them).

JSA is capped at £59.20 per week for under 25’s, and £74.70 for over 25s, so it isn’t much in terms of replacing a salary. If you don’t have savings, or any other income, you should also apply for Universal Credit: “Universal credit is the main benefit paid to you if you’re ineligible for disability benefits, are out of work, or are on an insufficient income. Depending on your circumstances, monthly Universal Credit payments can vary between £344 and £596.58,” explained James.

“If you’re receiving Universal Credit already, you’ll need to tell your job coach about the lost income. You should get an increase in payments as a result, but your conditions could also change, – for example how much of your time you’re meant to spend looking for work,” he added.

“If the drop in income means that you now qualify for Universal Credit, sadly, there’s nothing you can do until after that money is lost. Universal Credit payments are based on your current income, so if you apply now whilst you’re still receiving furlough, you’ll be assessed as if that income will continue,” he explained.

Although an actual application to Universal Credit can be done in a relatively short amount of time through the government website here, it can sometimes take weeks for the money to actually appear in your bank account.

To help bridge the gap, it’s possible to apply for a Universal Credit advance, – to help cover the cost of essentials, such as food, clothes, and rent, whilst you wait for your full payment(s) to come through. You can also get an advance worth 100% of your estimated Universal Credit entitlement. 

Even though the advance is interest-free, it’s important to remember that it is a loan, – not a grant or a bursary, so you’ll have to pay it all back. Before you apply for the advance, take a look at how it will affect your long term repayments, as it may be better to opt for a different short term loan to bridge the gap. 

If you’re still unsure which benefits you’re entitled to, check out money.co.uk’s comprehensive guide here: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/what-benefits-are-you-entitled-to.htm