Fund for workers ‘fallen through cracks’ plagued by issues

The £6m pot is to help support newly self-employed people and those who have mobile and home-based close contact businesses.

Fund for workers ‘fallen through cracks’ plagued by issues Getty ImagesGetty Images

Two new Covid-19 funds intended to support those not eligible for previous grants have been plagued by issues.

The mobile and home-based close contact business fund and a second run of the newly self-employed fund opened last week but a glitch saw some applications automatically rejected – without any appeal process available.

The Scottish Government said that the technical issue affected a small number of people but other business owners and self-employed people claimed there were more problems with accessing the funds.

When the online form was completed it was not possible to read the submission to check it over meaning typos and other minor errors led to applications being rejected.

James Moffat, a driving instructor in Glasgow, said: “This fund is meant to help people that have fallen through the cracks.

“I was really, really disappointed, to be honest I felt a wee bit sick.

“I’ve been waiting and hoping, when Kate Forbes made the announcement in December, that there was going to be something to help driving instructors.”

Mr Moffat was told his application was rejected because his identity could not be authenticated despite him submitting all of the correct information, he said.

‘Putting out a statement saying we’ve been contact when we haven’t makes people panic, thinking we’ve been overlooked.’

James Moffat

“This is what’s going to keep my business going, without this I can’t make the payments for my overheads,” he told STV.

The Scottish Government said more than 10,000 applications had been successfully received and 1500 were already approved.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes wrote on Twitter that all those unfairly rejected due to the system glitch had been contacted.

But, she said: “The vast majority of rejections are due to authenticating bank details. It is extremely important that you read the application guidance in advance and submit the right bank details for the right period.”

Mr Moffat believes he was unfairly rejected and said he has had no contact.

He said: “Putting out a statement saying we’ve been contact when we haven’t makes people panic, thinking we’ve been overlooked.”

A letter from Forbes to parliamentary colleagues said that those whose applications were affected by technical or minor errors were being identified and proactively contacted to offer them the opportunity to reapply.

The £60m fund, which opened on February 16, closes for applications on March 16 and makes grants of £4000 available to people who have been unable to work or run their businesses due to the pandemic.

The cash has been made available to support hairdressers, driving instructors, make-up artists and recently self-employed people, many of whom were ineligible for the UK Government grants or funds released last year.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish Conservatives have received lots of reports that people cannot access this fund and have been wrongly rejected.

“Far from dealing with the problem, the SNP’s response is beyond a joke. To try and blame the people applying for grants is woeful when the failure is all their own.

“We’re used to seeing the SNP try to shift the blame but that’s usually onto other governments, not onto the public.

“People deserve a lot better than having to trawl Twitter for information, only for the finance secretary to talk down to them, as if they’re making up these problems.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “More than 10,400 applications have been received across both funds. Almost 1500 applications have been approved so far, with applicants receiving almost £6m in support since both schemes launched one week ago.

“We acted on early feedback to resolve the identified systems issues – which we know are significant for the individuals involved – and we will continue to monitor and review the situation. Where system errors have been identified, applicants have been given an opportunity to reapply again.

“The application process balances the need to mitigate against fraud with simplicity, to ensure appropriate governance is in place for public funds.

“We urge anyone planning to apply for either of these funds to read the guidance on Find Business Support carefully and watch the support video beforehand to ensure that all details entered are correct and fully up to date.”

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