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Sunak's self-employed support dubbed 'woefully inadequate'

Sunak's self-employed support dubbed 'woefully inadequate'
 Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer. Credit: Charlie Bibby/Financial Times

The support provided for the self-employed in the face of the ongoing coronavirus crisis has been branded “woefully inadequate” as fears resurface that self-employed workers are falling through the cracks.

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, said around one in three had already been through “bleak months of financial devastation” after missing out on support.

He said: “The support for the self-employed announced today is woefully inadequate [and] still excludes one in three self-employed people. They face a dark winter ahead unless the government does more for them.

“The self-employed are vital for the economy and will be essential for economic recovery, but to play their part, they must get the support they need now. Government must do better for them.”

His comments come as Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, laid out his plans in parliament this afternoon (September 24) to support jobs in the ‘winter economy’.

The government announced it was extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant for six months from November 2020 for those who were continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus.

Provided through two grants, the scheme is only available to those who were eligible for the original SEISS back in May and will cover 20 per cent of average monthly profits, up to £1,875.

Self-employed workers will also benefit from the newly announced tax deferral scheme, which means businesses which postponed their VAT due to the pandemic will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March.

But the announcements have resurfaced worries about the number of self-employed workers falling through the cracks of government support.

Newly self-employed workers alongside limited company directors have fallen outside the government’s measures so far, and today’s announcement did little to bring them in from the cold.

Mr Sunak has previously maintained the SEISS would cover 95 per cent of the country's self-employed workforce but self-employed associations have disputed the statistic.

Speaking in parliament today Mel Stride, the chairman of the Treasury Committee, said there was “very considerable” concern under the existing arrangement that many self-employed people “fell through the gaps”.

He asked Mr Sunak: “Could [you] say something about whether some of those gaps will be ameliorated or ironed out as a consequence of the new measures?”

Mr Sunak agreed to meet with Mr Stride to discuss the possibilities, but would not be drawn on whether the measures could be extended. He said the UK’s support for self-employed was better than “almost any other country”.

Seb Maley, chief executive of Qdos, said: “It looks like freelancers and contractors have once again been cast aside when it comes to receiving meaningful support from the Government. 

“They have been left stranded and ignored when it matters most.”

Mr Maley added that millions working for themselves through their own limited company had received “little to no support” for six months.