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Support for self-employed a ‘far cry’ from promises

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak: ‘doing everything we can’

Support for the self-employed is a “far cry” from what has been promised by the UK government, according to a lobby group.

Five million people are self-employed in the UK but only 3.4 million are eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, says the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).

Of these, 2.4 million claimed £6.974bn between the 13 and 31 May. The average award was £2,900 per claimant. 

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “The numbers benefiting from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are a far cry from the 95% of freelancers the Chancellor initially promised.

“This is because the scheme does not cover vital groups like freelancers who work through limited companies and the newly self-employed.

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“There are also those whose incomes were over the threshold before the crisis, but who now find themselves with no income at all. We urge the government to do more for these groups, many of whom still have no sign of work coming in.”

Mr Chamberlain acknowledged the support that had been received and said it had saved many from going under.

“There is no doubt the scheme is an essential lifeline. The fact that 2.4 million people claimed a total of £6.974bn in May is testament to how necessary this support is and what a relief it is to self-employed people across the UK,” he said.

We recommend the government spends the money that one million have not claimed so far to extend support to these forgotten groups

– Andy Chamberlain, IPSE

“We would only urge more of the one million people who have not claimed to make use of the scheme if they need it. Struggling self-employed people should not be afraid to claim support: this is not a loan they will need to pay back, but a grant to keep freelancers who have lost their income going during this crisis. 

“It is also excellent that the government has heeded our calls to extend SEISS until August, and we would only urge it to open the scheme out to more of the 1.6 million struggling freelancers who cannot access it.

“We recommend the government spends the money that one million have not claimed so far to extend support to these forgotten groups. We are a long way from the end of the Coronavirus crisis, and many more of our vital freelance workforce urgently need more support in the coming months to keep their businesses afloat.” 

Three-quarters of a million Scots furloughed

The UK Government’s package of coronavirus support has protected the incomes of 774,000 people in Scotland, according to data from the Treasury.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme were announced by the Chancellor at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March as part of a package of measures to support jobs, businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The furlough scheme pays 80% of an employee’s wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Employers will be expected to pick up more of the cost from August.

The latest figures show 628,200 jobs in Scotland have been furloughed up to the 31 May across a wide range of sectors including retail, agriculture and construction. More than 6.4m jobs were furloughed in England, 316,500 in Wales and nearly 212,000 in Northern Ireland.

Over 58,000 people have been furloughed in Edinburgh, with 74,400 receiving support through the CJRS in the Glasgow region.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “The UK Government is doing everything we can to protect jobs and businesses in Scotland and across the UK during the crisis.  

“Our unprecedented job retention and self-employment support schemes have supported the livelihoods of millions and will help ensure our recovery is as swift as possible.”  

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “Through the job retention scheme 628,000 Scottish jobs have been furloughed, and the UK Government has spent £425 million on supporting 146,000 self-employed people in Scotland. 

This unprecedented package of UK Government support is protecting Scottish jobs and businesses

– Alister Jack, Scottish Secretary

“People and businesses in Scotland have also benefited from UK-wide schemes such as VAT deferral, company loans and Universal Credit. In addition, the Scottish Government has been allocated an additional £3.8 billion in coronavirus funding through the Barnett Formula.

“The UK Government is doing whatever it takes to get Scotland, and the whole of the UK, through the coronavirus pandemic and ensure our economy can get back on track.

“This unprecedented package of UK Government support is protecting Scottish jobs and businesses, and will ensure that Scotland’s economy can recover for the future.”

Across the UK, employers in the wholesale and retail sectors have furloughed the highest number of employers, covering 1.6 million jobs, followed by accommodation and food service employers furloughing 1.4 million.

The CJRS scheme will continue to support jobs until the end of October, with flexible part-time furloughing beginning in July to support businesses as the economy is carefully reopened.

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