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No furlough for UK's most vulnerable people

Citizens Advice - a network of 316 independent charities throughout the UK that give free, confidential information and advice to assist people with money, legal, consumer and other problems - has warned that the lack of safety net for vulnerable people in the UK will leave individuals at even greater risk.

The warning focuses on the 2.5 million people across the UK currently ordered to shield at home.

Those required to shield include people whose immune systems are impaired, are diabetic, obese and have heart problems.

Identified as "extremely clinically vulnerable" by the government, these individuals are asked to stay at home until the end of June, although their employers do not have to furlough them.

Startling research by Citizens Advice found that of the 2,000 people contacting them since 14 April for help, over 70 per cent of those shielding have not been furloughed.

Image credit: Wrex

Digging a little deeper into the issue, the research also found that more than one in ten of the shielded group were working outside of the home - this included individuals who had undergone organ transplants or had serious lung conditions.

This situation highlights the fact that enjoying quarantine (or simply surviving it, rather), at the most of times, is a class war.

If an extremely vulnerable person to COVID-19 does not have the means to support themselves financially, especially due to a lack of furlough, they will have little choice but to end up in potentially dangerous positions to sustain themselves and their families.

Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "People who are shielding have a right to be furloughed while their health is at risk [otherwise] some will face an impossible choice: paying the bills or protecting their health".

Since the beginning of lockdown, around 118,000 people have brought employment cases through Citizens Advice.

More than a quarter of those shielding had already lost 60 per cent of their income since the coronavirus outbreak began. Four in ten have lost at least 20 per cent of their income.

Whilst some have been denied access to the furlough scheme, many who were initially furloughed have returned to frontline roles, such as shop workers and delivery drivers, feeling under pressure to refuse.

Those who must shield at home from the coronavirus pandemic are only entitled to statutory sick pay - employers have no legal obligation to furlough an employee who is following Public Health England's shielding guidance.


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