The Prime Minister has announced that the government will increase the financial support available to certain self-employed workers in November, during the second national lockdown in England, but continues to “wilfully ignore” millions of freelancers and contractors.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be doubled from 40 per cent of average trading profits to 80 per cent. This will mean that those eligible can claim an average of 55 per cent of profits for the period from November to January, up to a maximum of £5,160.
Detailing the fourth set of changes to the economic support package on Twitter, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the latest measures offer £4.5billion of support to self-employed workers for the next three months.
Self-employed people eligible for the SEISS can apply for the grants from the end of the month, rather than mid-December. The Chancellor has also extended the deadline for businesses to apply for Coronavirus business loans to 31st January. But while the Treasury has said it has given £13.7billion of support overall for those in self-employment, it has not widened the eligibility scope of the SEISS.
According to the National Audit Office, nearly 3million freelancers, contractors and small business owners continue to be excluded from emergency Coronavirus support. As a result, industry bodies and campaign groups are urging the government to stop “wilfully ignoring” this group, who are facing “serious financial uncertainty”.
Derek Cribb, CEO at IPSE – the trade association for contractors and the self-employed, said: “The increase in SEISS is welcomed and will provide vital support for many of the UK’s struggling self-employed. However, it is deeply troubling that the government has still not fixed the devastating gaps in SEISS, despite urgent recommendations from the Treasury Select Committee. After so many calls to resolve the problems, it now looks as if the government is wilfully ignoring a third of the self-employed.”
Alongside IPSE and Qdos, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors (IOD), BackinBusiness, ExcludedUK and #ForgottenLtd (who penned this article in Contractor Weekly) are among the many experts urging the government to provide support for the newly self-employed and limited company directors, both of whom have had very little or no help at all since March.
While the increase in SEISS will be a lifeline to many businesses, Liz Barclay, CEO at BackinBusiness, said for many it is too little too late:
“We have already seen nearly a quarter of a million self-employed people leave this sector and this will increase dramatically as we hit 2021. Many are facing serious financial uncertainty and for a Conservative government to leave them unsupported is a disgrace. We risk losing vital skills and resources the UK needs to drive our economic recovery.”
Qdos CEO, Maley, added: “The irony, of course, is that it will be these workers who the government needs most to kickstart the economy. It’s vital, therefore, that the Prime Minister tailors the support available to this key sector of the workforce before it’s too late.”