William Eichler 11 March 2020

Budget 2020: £5bn emergency fund to fight coronavirus

The Government has promised to deliver a £5bn emergency response fund to help manage the extra pressures the NHS and social care sector are facing in the wake of coronavirus fears.

In his Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the coronavirus was ‘the key challenge facing this country today’, although he stressed that it was not the only challenge.

The Treasury is creating an emergency response fund, set aside to ensure the NHS and other public services have the resources they need to tackle the impacts of COVID-19.

Set at £5bn, it will fund pressures in the NHS, support local authorities to manage social care pressures and help vulnerable people, while helping to deal with pressures on other public services.

He insisted that the Government would supported the NHS in ‘whatever it needs, whatever it costs’ while it faced increased pressures.

‘Whatever extra resources our NHS needs to cope with Covid-19 – it will get,’ Mr Sunak said.

‘So, whether it's research for a vaccine, recruiting thousands of returning staff, or supporting our brilliant doctors and nurses… whether it's millions of pounds or billions of pounds… whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS.’

The Government will also provide local authorities in England with £500m grant funding to support economically vulnerable people who are impacted by the economic fallout of the virus in their local area.

The Treasury expects most of this funding to be used to provide council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes or through complementary reliefs.

In a Budget dominated by fears of coronavirus, Mr Sunak said that statutory sick pay would be available for all those advised by GPs to self-isolate.

The Government will compensate businesses with fewer than 250 employees paying statutory sick pay to any employee off for up to 14 days, he said Mr Sunak acknowledged that not everyone was eligible for statutory sick pay.

‘There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy. They will need our help too. So to support them, during this period, we’ll make it quicker and easier to get benefits.’

Mr Sunak also announced £10m for the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to support veterans suffering mental health issues.

Summarising Government plans to invest in health and social care to deal will the impact of coronavirus, Mr Sunak said: ‘Taken together, the extraordinary measures I have set out today represent £7bn to support the self-employed, businesses and vulnerable people.’

Responding to the announcement of a hardship fund for local authorities, Cllr John Fuller, chairman of the District Councils’ Network (DCN), said: 'We are pleased the Chancellor has announced funding for councils to help working people suffering hardship as a result of the coronavirus. The District Councils’ Network had a significant say in the design of the fund and we are delighted to see this announced today.

'It is a time to focus on working quickly to solve problems, which is what district councils do best. We are perfectly placed in the local community to deliver the support where it is needed most, creatively helping hard working families in whatever way they need.

'To make this investment really count it will be important for it to be channelled directly to district councils, and with full flexibilities and no ring fences so that we can rapidly respond to the range of issues this will throw up across our communities.'

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