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COVID-19 Employment Support Schemes


In March 2020 the government announced two schemes to support employment during the pandemic: the Coronavirus Job Retention or “furlough” scheme, and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). In total, the two schemes cost close to £100 billion of taxpayers’ money.  

A report by the National Audit Office has found that the employment support schemes achieved their primary aim of protecting jobs and businesses during the pandemic - with unemployment peaking at just over 5% - and that the actual costs of the schemes fell well below departmental estimates. However, the NAO noted that “Designing schemes at speed, coupled with the inherent uncertainty over the course of the pandemic, meant that the schemes would inevitably have flaws.”

The NAO found that “it is likely that several billion pounds have been paid to claimants who saw their incomes increase during the period.

The Committee will question senior officials at HMRC on whether the schemes achieved their objectives to support incomes and the labour market and reached those previously excluded from the schemes; how the Departments managed the delivery of the schemes through their later iterations, including attempts to improve the value for money of the schemes by making them more targeted while managing the risk of error and fraud; and how HMRC has estimated the level of error and fraud and undertaken compliance work to detect error and fraud.

Commenting on the NAO report on Covid 19 employment support that underlies this inquiry and call for evidence, PAC Chair Dame Meg Hillier MP said: “Government's COVID employment support schemes protected millions of people and businesses from hardship during the pandemic. While it established this essential support quickly, billions of pounds were wasted through fraudulent claims and loose controls. Government was too slow to act in response.

“HM Revenue & Customs must get a grip on how it measures and tackles fraud and error. Particularly at a time of constrained public finances, this could go a long way to supporting millions of citizens and essential public services.”

If you have evidence on the issues raised in this inquiry, please submit it here by November 4 at 18:00.



This inquiry is no longer accepting evidence

The deadline for submissions was Friday 4 November 2022.

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