Small businesses including restaurants and caterers face bankruptcy within a month unless banks step up to provide government-backed loans to help them through a period of lockdown.

In a week when the foodservice and hospitality sector continued to adapt to the coronavirus crisis, research foundthat nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized (SME) businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks amid reports that lenders are making it difficult for businesses to access Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs).

On Wednesday, business secretary Alok Sharma said it would be “completely unacceptable if any banks were unfairly refusing funds to good businesses in financial difficulty”. Sky News subsequently reported that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to unveil an overhaul of his emergency aid scheme for SMEs which will include the removal of the requirement for banks to first assess whether SMEs are eligible for their other lending options.

Ibrahim Dogus, chair of the British Takeaway Campaign, said access to the CBIL scheme would be crucial in ensuring that independent restaurants are still standing after the coronavirus crisis. “The people running these businesses don’t have banker sized bonuses or second homes to guarantee against these loans. They are ordinary people providing an important service at a reasonable price up and down the country,” Dogus said.

Elsewhere this week, businesses and their representatives have continued to pull together to support the national response to the crisis. A new free-to-use HospitalityUnite jobs portal has been launched to help displaced workers connect with businesses in other sectors, such as food retail and delivery, who are desperately in need of extra staff. The platform has been created free-of-charge by the hospitality workforce platform Harri.

Contract caterers are already redeploying employees whose regular place of work has shut down to supermarket shop floors as well as into hospitals, care homes and other sites that require more feet on the ground.

Almost 200 hotels, meanwhile, have made over 20,000 beds available for NHS staff and other vital workers following a call from UKHospitality, adding to the thousands already made available by individual hotel companies.

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