Businesses in South London among hardest hit by coronavirus

By Rafi Mauro-Benady

Businesses in South London have been among the worst affected by coronavirus in the country.

Lambeth and Lewisham have been the hardest hit boroughs in South London, with 29 per cent of the workforce furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – CJRS, according to figures released by the government.

The ‘take-up rate’ is the percentage of actual jobs furloughed against the eligible jobs in an area that could be furloughed.

Croydon had the highest number of people on furlough, at 53,300. But in terms of take-up by population size, Lambeth and Lewisham topped it.

Recruitment expert Richard Douglas, 24, said the figures make him worried for his future.

He said: “In all honesty these numbers don’t surprise me at all.

“I’ve been furloughed since March 23, and so have most of the people I know, and it’s really, really uncomfortable – to the point where I’ve seen some of my friends cry about it.

“I genuinely don’t understand how people are going to bounce back from this.”

Mr Douglas said the situation has laid waste the career prospects of a generation.

He said: “Coronavirus has really thrown a spanner in the works in terms of people’s livelihoods, and I don’t get how people without rich parents – which is most people – are going to be able to salvage what’s left of their careers.

“The furlough scheme ends in a couple of months, and that’s when I think companies will be making redundancies en masse, which will ruin things for a lot of people in their 20s.”

Given its population size Croydon has the highest number of people claiming from the self-employment income support scheme at 19,300, with more than £57million claimed to June 30, with a 75 per cent take-up rate.

Bexley at 78 per cent had the highest take-up rate of the South London boroughs, with 11,400 people using the scheme and almost £37million claimed.

London Assembly Member for Merton and Wandsworth, Leonie Cooper, said: “It’s clear from the take-up rate across London of 75 per cent for the Self-Employed scheme, how vital this has been to Londoners since it was introduced.

“The average amount per claim is less than £3,000, but this will have made all the difference to self-employed people.

“The take-up rate for the furlough scheme is much lower, with a London average 30 per cent take-up.”

Charity worker, Alan South, 25, of Vauxhall, said that at first furlough made him feel as if he’d been left behind by the world.

He said: “Being furloughed felt quite strange, almost like being left out, or not needed.

“I did realise that it was for the good of the organisation, but people think that if you are on furlough you are somehow on holiday, or escaping the hard work that happened over the crisis.

“I am aware that jobs are under threat as we move into a recession, and with rent and bills to pay it could become a very tough time for many of us, even those fortunate ones like me who haven’t already lost their jobs or been personally impacted by Covid-19.”

He thinks that it will be almost impossible for employers not to hold being furloughed against candidates, although he hopes this won’t happen.

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