Rishi Sunak announced a raft of measures to support sectors that have struggled from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 coronavirus — including VAT cuts for the tourism and hospitality sector, and a freeze on stamp duty to reinvigorate the housing market.
However, the budget has since drawn the ire of union officials for neglecting self employed people who have been forced to freeze their work during lockdown — with many left to rely on universal credit due to the impact of the virus on their work.
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Campaigners believe as many as three million freelance and self-employed workers have been left unable to claim on the government’s support schemes due to various restrictions on the measures introduced over the course of the pandemic.
Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, said the chancellor had “failed to acknowledge that there are some sectors that need extra support so they can retain viable jobs until they can reopen”.
He added: “The chancellor started his statement saying that ‘nobody will be left without hope’, but there was nothing in his new package for the millions of forgotten freelancers and others who have been left with no hope and no support for months.”
While the treasury had offered those who fell outside of the furlough scheme grants during lockdown, the measure has only been made available to those who had been working for a minimum of a year in a self employed capacity.
Other restrictions to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme included limiting the grant to those with maximum profits of £50,000 — and those who earned more than half of their income through their self employed work.
Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, which represents workers in the broadcasting industry, said: “There were millions of forgotten freelancers and others across the country hanging on the chancellor’s every word today, but once again the government has let them down and failed to recognise the plight of those who have fallen through the gaps.”
Andy Chamberlain, of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, added: “Although there were many positive measures to boost the economy in the chancellor’s statement today, the self-employed were noticeable by their absence.
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“While the chancellor has announced a measured and sensible end to the employee furlough scheme in October, freelancers are left to face a cliff-edge in August.
“Some freelancers relying on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) may benefit from the sectoral support announced today, but many more will not.”
Responding to concerns about the lack of measures for some self employed people and freelancers, Mr Sunak told MPs in the House of Commons that measures — including benefits like universal credit — meant some support was available to all.
“I have acknowledged that we haven’t been able to help everyone in the exact way they would like,” he said.
“But because of the strengthening we’ve put in place of our welfare system and our universal loans schemes, everyone has been able to access some form of support.”
Additional reporting by PA.