Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes may have saved between 150,000 and 500,000 businesses and between 500,000 and 2.9m jobs, finds initial evaluation

  • Between 10-34% of BBLS borrowers and 7-28% of CBILS/CLBILS borrowers could have permanently ceased trading in 2020 without the schemes
  • The Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes met their primary objectives of unlocking credit for businesses at scale and speed, and resulted in £78 billion in guaranteed loan facilities
  • Reduction of approval times between CBILS and BBLS was necessary to prevent business failures

London: The first in a series of reports evaluating the government’s Covid-19 emergency loan schemes has found that hundreds of thousands of jobs could have been lost without the £78 billion of funding guaranteed under the schemes.

In March 2020, in response to the global pandemic and corresponding wide-ranging business impacts and uncertainty, the government rapidly designed and deployed a series of three loan-guarantee schemes – the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). These aimed to support smaller businesses across the UK which were experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

One year later, the British Business Bank commissioned London Economics and Ipsos to undertake a multi-year evaluation of the three schemes. The first phase of the evaluation (PDF, 2.43 MB) published today, provides an early assessment of whether the objectives of the schemes were satisfied, and their impact.

Key findings

Early impact evaluation

This is an early assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes, and will be refined as more data becomes available and the medium- to long-term impacts of the schemes become clearer.

  • It is estimated that in the absence of the Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes, an additional 10%-34% of BBLS borrowers (146,000 to 505,000 businesses) and an additional 7%-28% of CBILS/CLBILS borrowers¹  (5,000 to 21,000 businesses) could have permanently ceased trading in 2020.
  • It is also estimated that 0.5 million to 2.9 million jobs could have been lost in the absence of the schemes
  • The most common uses of the funds were working capital and to provide financial security
  • Common actions undertaken by borrowers since raising external finance from one of the schemes included the adoption or expansion of digital technologies, innovation activities or building business resilience.

Process evaluation

  • The Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes met their primary objectives of unlocking credit for businesses at scale and speed and resulted in £78 billion in guaranteed loan facilities, reaching just over a quarter of smaller businesses² in the UK³.
  • Loans were generally either used to fund operational expenses or to boost reserves and resilience to unexpected shocks, and guaranteed lending may have had a significant protective effect
  • The introduction of BBLS helped ease pressure on lenders and accelerated timescales for loan approvals
  • 270,000 Bounce Back Loans were issued in the first week, and close to 800,000 in the first month. Had lenders conducted their standard checks on such a volume of applications, it would have created an extensive backlog with smaller businesses waiting significantly longer for a loan during which period the survival of the business may have been at risk.

Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO, British Business Bank, said:

“The Covid-19 emergency loan schemes were designed to address a drastically altered economic landscape for smaller businesses as lockdowns took effect. This evaluation is the first indication of just how important those schemes were in saving livelihoods, businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs, and we are proud to have played a vital role in their delivery.”

National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Martin McTague, said:

“As the pandemic first took hold, FSB campaigned hard to get as much support for as many small businesses and self-employed as possible. The emergency loans were among the most important lifelines, and the British Business Bank worked collaboratively and effectively with us to make sure there was a guaranteed finance option for even the smallest of businesses.

As today’s findings demonstrate, this swift action prevented vast numbers of businesses from going under; protecting jobs, livelihoods, and enabling these firms to be part of the economic recovery.”

Chris Wilford, Director of Financial Services Policy at the CBI, said:

“The Covid Loan Schemes made a critical difference to businesses of all sizes across every region and nation of the UK. Without this vital lifeline, hundreds of thousands of otherwise viable businesses, jobs and livelihoods would have been lost. The tireless work of the government, the British Business Bank and lenders throughout the crisis really mattered. It is important we build on this collaboration as we face into future challenges.”

Research methodology

Research was undertaken by London Economics and Ipsos MORI from September to December 2021 of 978 borrowers and 1,171 non-borrowers.

¹ To provide a sufficient sample size for analysis, the sample of CBILS and CLBILS borrowers were grouped – the combined sample is referred to as “CBILS/CLBILS borrowers’’.

² Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

³ This is based upon the 1.5 million applications approved for the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Schemes, and the 5.6 million active businesses in the UK


Notes to editors

About the British Business Bank

The British Business Bank is the UK government’s economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to drive sustainable growth and prosperity across the UK, and to enable the transition to a net zero economy, by improving access to finance for smaller businesses. Its remit is to design, deliver and efficiently manage UK-wide smaller business access to finance programmes for the UK government.

The British Business Bank’s core programmes support over £8.5 billion¹ of finance to almost 95,000 smaller businesses². The British Business Bank is responsible for running the government’s Coronavirus business loan schemes and Future Fund, together responsible for delivering £80.4 billion of finance to 1.67 million businesses. The schemes are now closed to new applications.

As well as increasing both supply and diversity of finance for UK smaller businesses through its programmes, the Bank works to raise awareness of the finance options available to smaller businesses. The British Business Bank Finance Hub provides independent and impartial information to businesses about their finance options, featuring short films, expert guides, checklists and articles from finance providers to help make their application a success. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and EU Exit, the Finance Hub has expanded and it now targets a wider business audience. It continues to provide information and support for scale-up, high growth and potential high growth businesses, but now provides increased content, information and products for businesses in survival and recovery mindsets. The Finance Hub has been redesigned and repositioned to reflect this, during this period of economic uncertainty.

British Business Bank plc is a public limited company registered in England and Wales, registration number 08616013, registered office at Steel City House, West Street, Sheffield, S1 2GQ. It is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government. British Business Bank plc and its subsidiaries are not banking institutions and do not operate as such. They are not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). A complete legal structure chart for the group can be found at

¹ Figures as at 31 March 2021

² Figures as at 31 March 2021