Drama school gradates who completed their studies last summer will need “rapid support” following the chancellor’s newly announced package of measures to help self-employed people financially.
The warning has been made by Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird, who has also urged the government to consider a form of interim payment for self-employed people who will not have access to funding until June.
Self-employed people working across theatre and the creative industries will be able to apply for 80% of their average monthly profit up to £2,500, said the government earlier this week.
The grant will be made as a single payment from the beginning of June.
However, there are concerns that the package excludes many theatre workers, including those who graduated last summer.
Rose Revitt, who graduated last year, said: “I am disappointed but not surprised – I registered as self-employed last year after finishing my MA and so unfortunately won’t be eligible for the support mentioned. I imagine everyone I graduated with will be in the same position.”
Helen Jeffrey said her daughter started as a freelance theatre designer last year after graduating.
“It’s not great for my daughter who started as a freelance assistant theatre designer last summer after graduating. Her first tax return will be 2019/20. All the graduates will be in the same position,” she said.
Bird said he welcomed the financial support, describing it as “much needed”. But he said interim payments were needed to assist people until June, and that graduates needed support.
“We remain concerned by the ability of people to access adequate funds through the welfare system until payments start to be made under the new scheme in June, and urge a rethink of whether some form of interim payment can be granted to self-employed people,” he said.
He added: “Many thousands of people who graduated last summer will also not be eligible for the scheme, and will need rapid support.”
BECTU has also urged more support for freelances and the self-employed.
Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “For those who can access the new scheme, June is a long time to wait and we have been urging the treasury to find a mechanism that will speed up the delivery of much needed funds to people. Our benefits system is not fit for purpose and it can’t be right that those who have already waited this long for government support are expected to wait five weeks just for Universal Credit.”
Childs also said the union had concerns about the upper cap of £50,000 profits a year that applies to the new measures, which she said would be difficult for members who earned a “few hundred pounds over” and will not be eligible for support.
“The same restrictions have not been put in place for permanent employees on PAYE,” she said.