Countless families are facing serious financial hardship. More than a million people have lost their jobs and the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic will continue to be felt throughout the next year.
We are also facing serious challenges in deep-seated inequality and the climate emergency.
Boris Johnson has failed to provide a serious economic strategy for dealing with these issues, and last week's Spending Review from Rishi Sunak failed to deliver for too many.
Liberal Democrats are calling for a people-first plan to protect jobs, build a fair and green economy for the future and ensure no-one is left behind in this pandemic:
1. Protect jobs and livelihoods
Although a vaccine may be on the horizon, the economic consequences of this pandemic will continue.
To give people and businesses certainty, the furlough scheme must be extended to June 2021 and be made available to the three million taxpayers that have so far been excluded from any help from the Government.
2. Build a green economic recovery
The Government’s current plans fail to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to the UK's progress on climate change over the past five years. Compared to France’s £27 billion and Germany’s £36 billion, it’s clear Boris Johnson’s £12 billion won’t even scratch the surface.
We need a long term plan, backed by meaningful funding, to tackle the climate climate emergency and kickstart a green recovery from Covid-19. We’re calling for £150 billion over 3 years to be invested in insulating homes, green transport, renewable energy and a green jobs guarantee.
3. Support carers
The UK’s 9 million carers do a remarkable and important job. In order to plug the immediate funding gap in adult social care and provide care workers with a much-deserved pay rise, the Government must provide an extra £4 billion to local authorities.
Liberal Democrats are also calling for a £1,000 a year increase to the current Carer’s Allowance in order to give the 900,000 unpaid carers the help they need. Currently they are living on just £67.25 a week. It’s just not nearly enough, and needs to change.
4. Support children in low-income households
No child should go hungry; that’s why access to Free School Meals must be extended to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit.
It’s also key to ensure that every pupil has a laptop or tablet so they do not fall behind if they are not able to go to school because they are self-isolating or in lockdown.
5. Provide Mental Health Services for everyone who needs them
This pandemic has taken a huge toll on many people's mental health and wellbeing and it is vital that anyone who needs support is able to access it in the coming months.
With NHS mental health services already severely overstretched, the extra funding announced by the Government will not be nearly enough to meet growing need. To alleviate the pressure on services there should also be funding for early interventions such as counsellors in schools.
6. Scrap the public sector pay freeze
In a year when our NHS and care staff, teachers, police officers and many others have gone beyond the call of duty, a pay freeze reveals just how callous the Chancellor truly is.
Many public sector staff have worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic, putting their lives on the line, and they deserve better.