TENS of thousands of people in Southampton have been helped through government schemes to protect jobs during the Covid-19 crisis, new figures reveal.

Union and business bodies say the financial support provided during the pandemic has been an essential lifeline for vulnerable firms and workers.

But they have warned that more protection will be needed in the months ahead.

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs show around 25,800 claims were made to furlough jobs in Southampton by the end of May.

That is equivalent to 1,022 in every 10,000 of the local population, the Office for National Statistics’s latest population estimates show.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in March to support firms struggling with the impact of the virus.

It covers up to 80% of an employee’s salary, capped at £2,500 a month per worker.

Across the South East, 1 million jobs were furloughed by the end of May.

The support will run until the end of October, with flexible furloughing starting in July, whereby employers will cover staffing costs for part-time work while claiming for the rest of their pay packet from the Government.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said the furlough scheme has been a “vital lifeline” but added that jobs need to be protected as it is scaled back.

She added: “That’s why the TUC is calling on government to set up a national recovery council with unions and employers.

“This would help support companies and workers in the challenging times ahead.

“We also need a jobs guarantee scheme for young workers, who are most at risk of being made redundant and scarred by unemployment.”

Separate figures show around 8,800 people in Southampton applied to the Self-employment Income Support Scheme by the end of May.

Claims made by people in Southampton amounted to £27.1 million, or £3,100 per person on average, with 69% of those thought to be eligible in the area having asked for cash.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-employed said there were still 1.6 million people who could not access the support.

Mr Sunak said: “Our unprecedented coronavirus support schemes are protecting millions of vital jobs and businesses across the whole of the UK – and will help ensure we recover from this outbreak as swiftly as possible.

“We have extended both schemes so they will continue to provide measured support across the UK as we start to reopen the economy.”