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Coronavirus Kent: Full economic impact of Covid-19 is yet to come, warns University of Kent professor

A Kent professor is warning the full economic impact of Covid-19 will not be felt for several months.

Peter Taylor-Gooby, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Kent in Canterbury, says that a pinch-point will come if the government's furlough scheme ends while the pandemic continues.

Professor of Social Policy at the University of Kent, Peter Taylor-Gooby
Professor of Social Policy at the University of Kent, Peter Taylor-Gooby

In new analysis, he paints a stark picture of a worsening economic landscape in the country as the year goes on.

He cites the possibility of mass redundancies, a fear of returning to the workplace, and larger numbers continuing to isolate as factors which he believes will drive an increasingly large number of people to using food banks.

He said: “The government has pursued a number of relevant measures: job retention through the furlough scheme, support for self-employed and support for individuals through Universal Credit.

“Most measures, apart from business loans, have a time-horizon of three months and are currently set to expire by the end of June, or early July.

“It does seem likely that they will be renewed, but it will become increasingly expensive to do so.

Donations of food arriving at Canterbury Food Bank
Donations of food arriving at Canterbury Food Bank

“The future of unemployment is unclear and will depend on unknowns - the scale of the international downturn, the stance taken by government and the progress of the pandemic.

“Over time, self-isolation is likely to diminish, but unless there is an effective vaccine, there will be people self-isolating to protect themselves for the foreseeable future.”

In parts of the county, such as in Canterbury and in Thanet, demand for food banks has already quadrupled since the coronavirus crisis began.

But professor Taylor-Gooby, who is a trustee of Canterbury Food Bank, anticipates that such services could continue seeing a huge surge in users until the end of 2020.

He said: “[I anticipate] demand on food banks increasing as savings become exhausted, people move off their Universal Credit advance loans and then later as they face demands from landlords for rent payments in July.

"The route out of this crisis is going to be perilous..."

“Some businesses will be able to return to employment but it is unclear how many can do that without risking a second wave of infection, or what the appetite is for that kind of risk.

“Demand may well increase for the next three or four months and possibly the rest of the year.

“A great deal depends on international economic recovery and on UK government policies with regard to austerity or reflating the economy and continuing to pay emergency benefits and extending the furlough scheme.”

Martin Ward, chair of Canterbury Food Bank, said: “The route out of this crisis is going to be perilous and there are difficult times ahead. This report makes that very clear.

“We ask people to support us through this period and help us to help those who can not afford to eat.”

The independent charity provides emergency three-day food parcels to individuals and families in short-term financial crisis across Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay and surrounding villages.

It has donation baskets in all leading supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons, where people can leave items.

Anyone who can not afford to buy food can make contact through the Canterbury Food Bank website or by ringing 01227 936450.

To donate money, visit its fundraising page.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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