'There are lots of people in dire straits' - Lothian mum-of-two whose husband has COVID-19 is denied benefits and furlough grant

The concerned mother said her son has a heart condition which makes the situation more worrying.

A mum-of-two said her family is having to “tighten belts” after she was unable to claim benefits and denied the government furlough grant.

Nanette Forsyth lives in Broxburn, West Lothian, with her husband and two teenage children, Amy, 12 and Callum, 14.

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She started a new job in March, just before the lockdown, but now has zero income due to not qualifying for universal credit or the government’s job retention scheme.

Nanette Forsyth from Broxburn, West Lothian, with her husband Malcolm and two teenage children, Callum, 14 and Amy, 12Nanette Forsyth from Broxburn, West Lothian, with her husband Malcolm and two teenage children, Callum, 14 and Amy, 12
Nanette Forsyth from Broxburn, West Lothian, with her husband Malcolm and two teenage children, Callum, 14 and Amy, 12

With her husband, Malcolm, self-isolating after contracting COVID-19 and her son, Callum, living with a heart condition, Nanette said the situation is worrying.

“There are lots of people in dire straits,” she said.

“Since I found out I wasn’t fit for the job retention scheme just because of a date in the calendar the situation certainly became worrying.

“We are tightening our belts.”

To qualify for the furlough system under the current UK Government coronavirus job retention scheme employees need to have been on a company payroll on or before March 19.

Although Nanette started her new job on March 16, she was not registered on the company’s payroll until the 31.

Malcolm works in the pharmaceutical industry and, as a key worker, he still receives a full salary.

But his wage makes it impossible for Nanette to claim benefits.

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“Even though my husband is ill with coronavirus at the moment, he still gets sick pay because he’s an essential worker which is good,” Nanette said.

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“But that also means we can’t apply for universal credit because he has a salary.

“I also can’t get job seekers because I technically have a contract with a company, so it’s all a bit frustrating.”

Nanette said she approached her previous employer, who owns a variety of shops, to see if she could be rehired.

But the only option for her was to work in a store on the frontline which she refused given her sons condition.

“A life is better than receiving minimum wage just to be more comfortable,” she said.

“While my son is not on the shielding list, he still has an underlying health condition and it’s just not worth the worry and risk working in a job that’s public facing.”

Nanette said the government’s decision to extend lockdown by three weeks is going to make life a lot harder for many.

While the guidelines recently moved the cut-off date for those who can apply for furlough grants from February 28 to March 19, there are still many who have “fallen through the cracks.”

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“It’s a very unsettling position to be in when you are promised by the government that you won’t be left behind, and then realise you have been,” Nanette added.

“This pandemic wasn’t intentional, but it’s very worrying when your stability is completely out of your control.

“I also believe there is a principal here – just because you happened to have changed your job at a certain time does not mean you should have to fall flat on your face and not be supported by the job retention scheme.”


Nanette is part of a Facebook group called Newstarter Furlough which has more than 8,000 members who are in a similar situation to her and her family.

“The fact that others are in this position is a great help because we are all standing together,” she said.

“As a group we can fight to get the support we need and make sure we are not just left to slip through the cracks.”

The group is pushing for the guidelines to include new starters that were not on payroll with their new company on March 19, but had a contractual commitment with them.

In a statement it said: “The government must implement a system whereby between you and your new employer, you can prove that a contract has begun or was arranged to commence, prior to the announcement of this lockdown. The particulars of that contract must then be eligible for the same support as those who have been with the company for longer.”

Current UK Government guidelines

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On the UK Government website the furlough guidelines read: “You can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020.

“This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 19 March 2020.

“Employees that were employed as of 28 February 2020 and on payroll (i.e. notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 28 February) and were made redundant or stopped working for the employer after that and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if the employer re-employs them and puts them on furlough.

“If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

For full guidelines visit here.



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