Weekly Digest – 23 June 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

COVID-19 Booster Vaccine Plan to Come in a Few Weeks

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that plans for a COVID-19 booster jab programme in autumn will be set out in the next few weeks. Trials for combinations of vaccines are currently being trialled to determine which is the most effective.

UK Business Interruption Settlements Hit £467.3 Million

UK business interruption settlements for COVID-19 related claims have hit £467.3 million. Final settlements have been agreed and paid for 16,159 policies, while initial payments totalling £289.6 million have been made on an additional 4188 claims.

Government Extends Commercial Eviction Ban Until March 2022

The government will extend the ban on commercial evictions until March 2022. According to Chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay, the moratorium for business tenants set to expire this month will continue until 25 March 2022.

This comes after the PM announced the delay of easing lockdown restrictions by four weeks, with the new date for the final step of the government’s roadmap set for 19 July.

UK Businesses Given £12.3 Billion Export Support From the Government

UK Export Finance (UKEF) has given support to UK exporters amounting to £12.3 billion in the last financial year. This figure is equivalent to almost three times the amount given in 2019-20.

The agency, which works alongside the Department for International Trade, provides support for small and medium-sized businesses that need loans, insurance policies, or bank guarantees for export activities.

The UKEF estimates that its financial support to exporters during the pandemic has protected up to 107,000 jobs and helped key industries stay afloat.

UK Government Announced £36 Million AI Research Boost for NHS

A share of £36 million to test ‘state-of-the-art’ AI technology has been invested in projects that aim to help the NHS improve the quality of care and the speed of diagnoses for various conditions such as lung cancer.

At the CogX Festival last week, new winners of the second wave of the NHS AI Lab’s AI in Health and Care award were announced. These thirty-eight new AI projects include an AI-guided tool to assist doctors and nurses to diagnose heart attacks more accurately, an AI-powered mental health app to tackle anxiety and depression, an algorithm to fast-track lung cancer detection, and tech to help spot undiagnosed spinal fractures.

Cash Boost For Apprentices Launched

Employers of all sizes in England can now apply for additional funding to help them take on new apprentices. The boost to the apprenticeship incentive scheme has been available to claim from 1 June. Businesses can apply to claim £3000 for each new apprentice hired as a new employee from 1 April until 30 September.

Debt Respite Scheme ‘Breathing Space’ Launched

Around 700,000 people struggling with debt problems will benefit from a new debt respite scheme called Breathing Space.

Under this scheme, those facing financial difficulties will be given 60 days to get their finances back on track, with most interest and penalty charges frozen, and enforcement action halted.

Professional debt advice will also be provided. Recognising the link between debt problems and mental health issues, these protections will be available for those in mental health crisis treatment for the full duration of their crisis treatment plus another 30 days.

Over £150 Million Funding for New ‘Help to Build’ Scheme

The new £150 million ‘Help to Build’ scheme will make it easier and more affordable for people to build their own homes. New homes can be made to order or built from scratch, and will benefit small building firms as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs.

Also, a £2.1 million additional funding has been announced to help communities decide where they want new homes, shops, and offices to be built and what they should look like.

Recovery Loan Scheme Launched

The government has launched a new Recovery Loan Scheme to help companies access loans of £25,000 up to a maximum of £10 million. The loans will include 80% government guarantee and interest rate cap of 14.99%.

This is in addition to the extended furlough until 30 September and the New Restart Grants scheme.

Job Retention Scheme Extended Until End of September

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021. It will remain unchanged until the end of June, and a phased reduction in the level of funding will be implemented from 1 July 2021.

Currently, employers can claim grants equal to 80% of a furloughed employee’s reference pay. Grants for each worker are capped at £2,500 per month.

For claims starting 1 July 2021, the grant will be reduced to 70% of the reference salary and capped at £2,187.50 per month. It will be further reduced to 60% of the reference salary with a cap of £1,875 starting 1 August 2021.

You can read more about it here.

£20 Million SME Brexit Support Fund Launched

A £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund has been announced to help businesses adjust to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

Traders will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,000 to pay for practical support for importing and exporting. This fund will help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls that will take effect from April and July.

More details can be found here.

Kickstart Scheme grant

  • Provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit
  • Covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage) for 25 hours a week for a total of six months
  • Also covers National Insurance contributions
  • Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021

More information can be found here.

Five Strategies For Building Customer Loyalty

Gaining customer loyalty can add significant value to your business. However, small businesses encounter challenges when it comes to keeping their customers. This Forbes article shares some effective strategies to acquire loyal customers.

  • Know the values of your brand. Use effective marketing strategies to commercialise your brand and communicate your values in the initial phases.
  • Offer excellent customer service. Create a good first impression to build a sense of trust among the customers.
  • Establish a loyalty program. Start a loyalty program to prove to customers how much they matter to your business. You can set up a points system and offer coupons or purchase cards.
  • Take customer feedback seriously. Both good and bad customer feedback is crucial. If you’re not receiving any, start asking for feedback from your customers and implement valid suggestions.
  • Create an online community. Social media is a vital aspect of modern businesses, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So encourage your customers to follow your social media pages and create engaging content, including those that increase transparency in your business.

Returning customers are more likely to spend more into your business. So if you need some expert guidance on how to run your business better, book a one-on-one consultation with us today!

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