The pandemic has demonstrated that Britain is sorely lacking in preparation of emergency assistance for people who are prevented from earning a living due to an emergency. The hastily put together furlough scheme excluded over 3 million people, and increases to Universal Credit put in place to help people not eligible for furlough have become a political battleground. Britain was one of the earliest countries to start building a welfare state, and maintains a benefits system that helps a significant number of people who are unable to work for a variety of reasons, but it still has significant gaps and is not agile enough to operate effectively in a situation like a pandemic. The key problems with the current welfare system when faced with an emergency are:
1. It is not agile enough: Universal Credit is too restrictive and the wait for the first payment is too long
2. People who have jobs but cannot work temporarily are not eligible: if you have a job but cannot do it because of an emergency you cannot claim benefits.
3. Self employed people are not eligible for all benefits like some Job Seekers Allowance.
4. There is no safety net for businesses forced to temporarily close.
It is not just a pandemic that can cause disruption to businesses. Any sort of natural disaster, war, or industrial accident can lead to restrictions in a local area, sometimes for long periods, during which people cannot work. Providing a ready to go safety net for both businesses and individuals that could be deployed locally or nationally would have prevented some of the economic hardship that people have faced over the last year and reduced the risk of the government wasting money through either poorly targeted schemes created on the fly, or fraudulent exploitation.