COLUMN: Knight’s Days with Sir Greg Knight – First it was jabs and now it’s jobs
There is one thing that unites us all at present: as a nation we are all sick to the back teeth of this pandemic.
Countless lives have been lost, many others have been ill but have happily recovered and some have been ill and are still suffering long-term consequences.
But even those who have so far escaped the clutches of this deadly and unpredictable virus have still had their lives disrupted by the restrictions we have had to suffer.
But as the restraints on our behaviour are finally lifted, we can cautiously look ahead again and start planning the future.
It is the case that Covid-19 infection rates are still rising, concerningly so in some areas, but the good news is that hospitalisations and deaths are remaining low as a result of the success of the vaccination programme.
If this trend continues, even if the virus continues to lurk in our midst for some time to come, perhaps forever, it will nevertheless be something that an annual vaccination should be able to keep in check.
With millions of jabs now successfully in place, the Government’s focus is moving to jobs.
The Plan for Jobs should help millions of people across the country who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As we continue on the road to recovery and more sectors of our economy start to reopen, we are seeing some improvements in the employment figures, with an increase in the number of vacancies and workers on company payrolls.
But Parliament is aware that those who have been out of work for longer periods might need extra help to move back into employment.
The Restart Scheme, launched by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is designed to give Universal Credit claimants, who have been out of work for between 12 to 18 months, enhanced and personalised support to find jobs.
For some this might involve training to take advantage of new opportunities in a growing business sector, whilst for others it might be helping to get the right certificates to take up a job in a different industry, such as construction or IT.
‘Restart’ is expected to help more than a million Universal Credit claimants who have no sustained earnings, with £2.9bn of funding being allocated.
When the experts looked at the British economy a year ago, unemployment was forecast to be about 12 per cent at its peak this year but it is now forecast to be around half of that, which means two million fewer people have lost their jobs than feared a year ago.
There is therefore some reason to be cautiously optimistic. It would appear that the plans the Government has put in place are working.
Hopefully, we will see more evidence of that in the months to come.