Covid-19 lockdown in England: What financial support is available and has furlough been extended?

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

The closure of bars, restaurants, non-essential shops and leisure facilities in England for at least four weeks during a Covid-19 lockdown will hit many businesses and employees hard.

In a bid to stop unemployment rates surging, Boris Johnson had announced that the furlough scheme will be extended until December.

But the scheme has been extended again, following an announcement from Rishi Sunak, meaning it will run until the end of March next year.

So what help is out there for those affected by the tough new coronavirus measures?

What's happening with the furlough scheme?

The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.

Mr Sunak, in an update to MPs, confirmed that employees can continue claiming up to 80% of their salaries if they are unable to work after England's lockdown ends on December 2.

Under the furlough scheme, which pays up to £2,500 of wages, employers will only have to cover National Insurance and pension contributions.

The scheme will be reviewed in January to "decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more".

Businesses will have flexibility to use the scheme for employees for any amount of time and shift pattern, including furloughing staff full-time.

People who work in the hospitality or leisure industries will be largely unable to work from home. Credit: PA

Can I be paid more than 80% of my wages?

The government will provide employers with 80% of employees' wages, but these can be topped up to 100% at businesses' discretion and out of their own pocket.

What about businesses?

The Treasury also announced that grants worth up to £3,000 per month are to be handed out for business premises forced which are to close.

There is also £1.1 billion that will go to local authorities for one-off payments to help them support businesses.

What support is there if I'm self-employed?

The next self-employed income support grant - which covers November to January - will increase from 55% to 80% of average profits, capped at £7,500.

There will be a fourth grant covering a percentage of average income spanning February to April 2021, but it’s not yet known how much this will cover or when the deadline for applying will be.

The furlough scheme has been extended until December. Credit: PA

What if I have seen a reduction in my earnings and I cannot meet my mortgage payments?

Mortgage payment holidays have been extended.

Borrowers who have been financially hit by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six-month holiday.

Those who have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.

What if I can't pay my rent?

No new support has been announced if you cannot afford to pay your rent.

If you cannot pay your rent you should explain the situation to your landlord straight away.

They might give you more time to pay, or agree to reduce your rent. 

If your landlord does not offer to be flexible with your rent payments, Citizen Advice suggests it is a good idea to pay as much as you can afford.

Keep a record of what you discussed with your landlord and how much you paid - you might need it if you ask for housing help from the council. 

You should also contact your nearest Citizens Advice - an adviser can help you explain things to your landlord. 

You may be entitled to benefits to help with housing costs if your income has reduced, even if you’re still working.

Citizens Advice have information on what benefits you can get.

Mortgage payment holidays have been extended. Credit: PA

What has the response from trade unions been?

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that families are being forced to face a “grim winter” because the government did not act decisively sooner.

She said: “The extension of the furlough scheme is long overdue and necessary, but ministers must do more to protect jobs and prevent poverty.

“Furlough pay must never fall below the national minimum wage.”

She stressed that a boost to Universal Credit is needed and government must not “abandon” the self-employed.