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Board upholds complaint over Covid payment scheme

Updated: Jun 20, 2023


A business owner, who complained about a lack of clarity in a Covid support payment scheme, has had her case upheld. The woman, named only as Ms Mayer in States of Jersey Complaints Board docments, made the complaint about the administration of her application under the Co-Funded Payroll scheme (CFPS).

The government scheme sought to offer financial help to businesses during periods of lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic. Ms Mayer was self-employed and had accessed funds from the CFPS for six months, the board said in its findings.

The findings which have been made public, said the woman had read the guidance and spoken to a helpline to check she was claiming correctly.

However, in January 2022 Ms Mayer was sent a letter claiming she had wrongly claimed in relation to business turnover, as opposed to actual earnings. The letter from the Treasury Department threatened action if she didn't pay back money they said she had claimed illegally in 2020.

'Natural Justice' Geoffrey Crill, chair of the Complaints Panel said: "Those involved in establishing the CFPS should take considerable and justifiable pride in the speedy and effective support that the scheme provided. "However, the department had used the term ‘turnover’ in determining an applicant’s eligibility for assistance under the scheme, while using the term ‘gross income’ in order to calculate the level of support.

"The department did not take adequate steps to ensure that the distinction was understood by all applicants and the helpline simply referred applicants back to the guidance. "The threat of legal proceedings should have only been introduced as a last resort if the people involved failed to engage with the department."

The board upheld the complaint on the grounds that "the treatment of Ms. Mayer and the other people involved had been contrary to the generally accepted principles of natural justice".

In his conclusions, Mr Crill said the department should accept responsibilty, and agree to reduce the amount - currently more than £3,300 - Ms Mayer owes - although he did not say by how much.


In response to the findings, assistant chief minister Connétable Andy Jehan said: “Reflecting on the panel’s suggestion that ex gratia reductions should be made to the amount owed by the complainant in this case, we are acutely conscious of the need to balance the interests of those like the complainant and the interests of other business owners – some of whom may be direct competitors – who understood the rules and claimed as the scheme intended. “We will take the necessary time to carefully consider the findings of the report to ensure that similar schemes are implemented even more effectively going forward.” His statement added: “With the benefit of hindsight, there is always more that could be done to ensure that all claimants had a complete understanding of the scheme's rules."

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