Weekly Digest – 12 May 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

England to Launch a ‘Vaccine Passport’ of Sorts Next Week

The NHS app will double as a “vaccine passport” for fully vaccinated residents of England starting on Monday. Residents across the UK can already use the NHS app to refill prescriptions, arrange appointments to see their doctor and view their medical records. Now the app is being adapted to include vaccine verification.

While England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have been in talks for a joint digital system, initially only residents of England aged 13 and up will be able to use the vaccine verification feature of the NHS app.

Eventually, the app will also show Covid-19 test results, but that feature will not be available next week. The NHS website advises that people register to use the app at least two weeks before traveling.

Meanwhile, for people without access to a smartphone, a paper vaccine certification will be available.

Further Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions Confirmed for 17 May

The planned Step 3 easements of the Roadmap will go ahead from 17 May, after the “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met. These tests involve the progress in the vaccine deployment programme, evidence that vaccines are effective in reducing deaths and hospitalisations, low infection rates, and if the assessment of risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants.

From 17 May, the majority of the indoor and remaining outdoor economy can reopen, including entertainment such as cinemas, museums, and children’s play areas. Gathering limits will also increase to up to 6 people or 2 households indoors and up to 30 people outdoors. The Stay in the UK restriction will be lifted and people will be able to travel to green list countries, if they permit inbound travel.

Face coverings will no longer be needed in classrooms and twice weekly home testing will remain to control infection rates. You can find out more about the changes that will take place here.

Step 4 is due to take place no earlier than 21 June. We’ll keep you posted for further updates.

PM Sets Out Plans to Take UK Forward After the Pandemic

In the Queen’s Speech this week, the Prime Minister has said the government won’t settle on going back to the way things were. Among the planned new laws include:

  • A Skills and Post-16 Education Bill for England, with loans for adults wanting to retrain and more powers to deal with failing colleges
  • Tax breaks for employers based at eight new freeports in England will be included in a National Insurance Contributions Bill. The new freeports announced at the March 2021 Budget include East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber region, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames, and Teesside.
  • A bill aimed at deterring asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel
  • A bill to ease planning controls and increase housebuilding in England
  • Plans to improve bus and train service connectivity in England
  • New laws to scrap the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, meaning it will be easier for Mr Johnson to call an early general election before 2024

New Debt Respite Scheme ‘Breathing Space’ Launched

Around 700,000 people struggling with debt problems will benefit from a new debt respite scheme called Breathing Space.

Under this scheme, those facing financial difficulties will be given 60 days to get their finances back on track, with most interest and penalty charges frozen, and enforcement action halted.

Professional debt advice will also be provided. Recognising the link between debt problems and mental health issues, these protections will be available for those in mental health crisis treatment for the full duration of their crisis treatment plus another 30 days.

Over £150 Million Funding for New ‘Help to Build’ Scheme

The new £150 million ‘Help to Build’ scheme will make it easier and more affordable for people to build their own homes. New homes can be made to order or built from scratch, and will benefit small building firms as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs.

Also, a £2.1 million additional funding has been announced to help communities decide where they want new homes, shops, and offices to be built and what they should look like.

Support for Disabled Jobseekers

The government will boost the number of specialist advisers dedicated to helping disabled jobseekers to secure and stay in work, with an additional 315 Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) roles to be in job centres across the UK by May 2021. This will bring total numbers to 1,115 once the process is complete.

With the government’s Plan for Jobs underpinned by the Access to Work scheme, those with disabilities are already benefiting. This scheme includes grants worth up to £62,900 and can cover the cost of necessary workplace adjustments.

Recovery Loan Scheme Launched

The government has launched a new Recovery Loan Scheme to help companies access loans of £25,000 up to a maximum of £10 million. The loans will include 80% government guarantee and interest rate cap of 14.99%.

This is in addition to the extended furlough until 30 September and the New Restart Grants scheme.

Job Retention Scheme Extended Until End of September

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021. It will remain unchanged until the end of June, and a phased reduction in the level of funding will be implemented from 1 July 2021.

Currently, employers can claim grants equal to 80% of a furloughed employee’s reference pay. Grants for each worker are capped at £2,500 per month.

For claims starting 1 July 2021, the grant will be reduced to 70% of the reference salary and capped at £2,187.50 per month. It will be further reduced to 60% of the reference salary with a cap of £1,875 starting 1 August 2021.

You can read more about it here.

Online VAT Deferral Payment Scheme

Businesses that deferred VAT payments last year can join the new online VAT Deferral Payment Scheme to pay it in smaller monthly instalments.

To take advantage of this new payment scheme, businesses will need to have deferred VAT payments between March and June 2020 under the VAT Payment Deferral Scheme. These businesses will be given the option to pay their deferred VAT in 2 to 11 equal monthly instalments starting in March, April, May, or June 2021, with no interest.

The new scheme will be open until 21 June 2021. Further details can be found here.

£20 Million SME Brexit Support Fund Launched

A £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund has been announced to help businesses adjust to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

Traders will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,000 to pay for practical support for importing and exporting. This fund will help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls that will take effect from April and July.

More details can be found here.

Ongoing COVID-19 Business Support From the Government

After almost a year of lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, many firms in the UK are still in need of support to stay afloat. Below is a comprehensive list of government support programmes that are available to your small business.

Kickstart Scheme grant

Deadline: Not specified

  • Provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit
  • Covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage) for 25 hours a week for a total of six months
  • Also covers National Insurance contributions
  • Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021

More information can be found here.

Self-employed Income Support Scheme

Deadline: Online claims service for the fourth grant will be available from late April 2021 until 31 May 2021.

  • The fourth grant will be calculated at 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits and will be paid out in a single instalment capped at £7,500 in total.
  • The fifth and final grant covering May to September can be claimed from late July. The amount will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.
  • The fifth grant will be worth 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more.
  • For those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%, the fifth grant will be equivalent to 30% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850.

More information can be found here.

Flick us a message if you need our assistance with your applications.

Strategies for Lowering Your Startup Costs

Starting a business can be expensive, even if you’re just working with something small and lean. This Forbes article shares some strategies to ease the financial burden that you might face upon entering the world of entrepreneurship:

  • Consider buying used equipment, machinery, or vehicles
  • Lease instead of buying expensive equipment
  • Reduce overhead expenses such as by reducing the size of your workspace
  • Hire only who you need– at least at first
  • Secure a floating line of credit
  • Invest in insurance for financial protection in a number of areas
  • Form mutually beneficial partnerships with other entrepreneurs

The earliest stage of your business development is going to be the hardest financially. So if you need more toughest advice, get in touch with us for a one-on-one consultation.

Get in touch

Contact us if you have any questions or want to discuss the next steps for your business.

Want to grow your business? Our Free Resources will Help