Call to support consumers in Covid recovery



A new report is urging the Government to take the lead in supporting consumers to recover financially from the pandemic.

Innovation Foundation Nesta has commissioned Guaranteeing a Rapid Recovery a report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) which sets a series of recommendations for government and innovators to support consumers as the recovery from COVID-19 continues including:

· The government to take a leading role in developing and supporting innovation on jobs and financial resilience to support people to recover post-pandemic – including allowing GPs to ‘prescribe’ services to support people’s career and financial wellbeing

· Regulators to enshrine “consumer duties” in markets such as energy and telecoms, building on the approach recently proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). A Consumer Duty for public services should also be considered, similar to that recently introduced in Scotland.

· The Office for National Statistics to develop improved, regular measures of household finances, to support innovators developing solutions to improve financial resilience.

It also calls on the UK government to take a more proactive role in coordinating innovation on jobs and financial resilience support. For example through curating a network of organisations with direct links to vulnerable users, enabling primary care professionals to refer people to a range of services to support their health and wellbeing, or allow innovators to co-locate within government-owned sites such as Job Centres.

The launch of the report coincides with the announcement of the winners of Nesta’s £3m Rapid Recovery Challenge, a funding project launched in response to the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge is designed to support and scale new tools and solutions which offer rapid and personalised support to improve the job prospects and financial situation of people impacted by COVID-19 across the UK.

The two winners – Hastee – a financial health platform that offers earnings on demand, financial education, and other financial well-being tools and Udrafter – an online marketplace where businesses can access student and graduate talent on-demand – were chosen from 14 semi-finalists, which then became six finalists. At each stage varying amounts of prize money have been awarded, and the 14 innovators have provided support to 63,000 people during the pandemic. As the two overall winners, Hastee and Udrafter will receive an additional £200,000 each – bringing their total challenge funding to £475,000 each – and go on to collectively support a further 100,000 people by the end of 2023.

Tris Dyson, managing director at Nesta Challenges, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the financial resilience and job prospects of many people across the UK, particularly young people and those in already precarious positions.

“Innovative tools and solutions that help people who have borne the brunt of the economic shock of the pandemic are vital – tools like those offered by our challenge prize winners Hastee and Udrafter.

“Through the Rapid Recovery Challenge, 14 innovators have received funding and support to help more than 63,000 people across the UK and the winners will reach a further 100,000 by the end of 2023. Throughout the challenge, these tools and platforms were carefully cultivated to evolve into the effective and scalable solutions we see today. The tools developed by the two winners will significantly boost access to employment opportunities and money for thousands of individuals who would otherwise face a struggle to survive financially as the UK emerges from the pandemic. Alongside the Challenge prize, the SMF report also underlines the importance of the role played by government, regulators, policymakers and stakeholders in ensuring support reaches the people who need it most, and innovations like these can continue to succeed.”

Scott Corfe, research director at the SMF, said: “As the furlough scheme closes and the dust settles on the biggest economic crisis since the Second World War, the state now must turn its attention to supporting a recovery which prioritises employment and financial support for those hardest hit by the pandemic.

“The evidence is clear: rapid and personalised support is the best way to help people back into work and bolster financial resilience. The Government can lead the charge by coordinating innovation to ensure enterprising firms can scale solutions that provide tailored support at speed.

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