Close-contact workers ‘still struggling to get support’

The mobile and home-based close contact and newly self-employed fund deadline has been extended.

Close-contact workers ‘still struggling to get support’ SNS Group

Mobile and close-contact workers claim they’re still struggling to access vital support funds as a Scottish Government deadline was extended.

The likes of hairdressers and driving instructors were previously denied funding due to a technical hitch in February which saw applications rejected without an appeals process.

Despite the Scottish Government insisting the problem had been fixed, many workers have told STV News they are still facing issues and on Thursday the deadline for applications was pushed back by a week.

Kayleigh Brown, a self-employed nail technician, said: “I feel there has been no support or clarity. I’ve been ignored everytime I’ve tried to make contact.

“I can definitely say the last three weeks have taken a toll on my mental health.”

Kayleigh Brown, nail technician

“My husband and myself are both self-employed. He is a hairdresser so we’ve been unable to work under the restrictions so it has been extremely stressful not only financially but mentally as well.

“I can definitely say the last three weeks have taken a toll on my mental health.”

The Scottish Government said there had been more almost 19,000 applications with over 7350 people receiving almost £30m in support so far.

With the new closing date of March 23, that leaves around 11,000 applicants unsure if they will receive the funds or have the chance to reapply if they are unsuccessful.

Those who say they have been mistakenly rejected are worried they will miss out.

“It’s weighing heavily on myself and my family.”

Driving instructor James Moffat

James Moffat, a driving instructor in Glasgow, said: “I am feeling disheartened that the closing date is fast approaching and we are still not much further forward.

“It’s weighing heavily on myself and my family because the financial pressures of keeping up with my business overheads is still very much there.

“Myself and my fellow small business owners are feeling so kept out of the loop with the whole thing as we only seem to get information and updates through social media sites, as opposed to a reply from any of the people at the forefront of this grant.”

The Scottish Conservatives said business owners feared their firms going to the wall without vital support.

Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “Many applicants have not yet heard back and many have been rejected due to technical malfunctions in the application system.

“Consequently an increasing number of these applicants are becoming distraught as, with every day that passes, they see the prospect of their businesses edging ever nearer the brink and folding.

“Quite simply surely the cabinet secretary for finance Kate Forbes must realise these applicants urgently need and deserve a response to the points they raise about there being no valid reason, having complied with the rules and provided all the required information accurately, for their applications being rejected.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Since the Mobile And Home Based Close Contact Services Fund and the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund launched three weeks ago more than 7400 applications have been assessed and paid, totalling nearly £30m in support.

“When the funds first opened in mid-February there was a technical issue that impacted on the ability of some people to successfully submit their application. This was swiftly resolved and those applicants have since been invited to re-apply.

“We also responded to feedback from applicants that were unsuccessful because of mistakes they had made when submitting their form and, where that is the case, they have been given an opportunity to re-apply. To date, around 4500 such applicants have been invited to re-apply.

“Every applicant has been emailed directly since submitting their application and we have also written to MSPs to keep them updated on how the funds are progressing.

“We understand the importance of getting support to businesses as quickly as possible and the application process balances the need to mitigate against the risk of fraud with simplicity, to ensure appropriate governance is in place for public funds.

“We have been absolutely clear that all applications received before the extended closing date of March 23 will be processed and will receive funding if eligible.”

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