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, the government has announced.
The self-employed income support scheme was announced in a press briefing today (March 26) by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, as part of emergency measures to support those losing income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It follows widespread calls from organisations including BECTU, Equity, the Creative Industries Federation and Stage Directors UK for greater government support for freelances, with warnings that many would face bankruptcy without help.
The government scheme will see self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus paid a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profit over the last three years, up to 2,500 a month.
It is open to anyone across the UK with trading profits of up to £50,000 a year in 2018-19, or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2017-18.
The scheme will be available for at least three months and those who have access to the grants are still allowed to continue to do business.
Those who are recently self-employed and do not have accounts for 2018-19 will not receive any help under this scheme
Sunak said it would be unlikely that people would be able to access the scheme until June, and that in the meantime, self-employed people would have access to business interruption loans and the welfare system.
Those who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC and the grant will be paid directly into their bank accounts.
The Creative Industries Federation welcomed the measures as a “victory for the creative industries”, however warned there needs to be more immediately accessible support.
Chief executive Caroline Norbury said: “Although the measures announced today are welcome, it is vital that they are implemented as a matter of urgency, and certainly much quicker than the proposed timeline of June – two months later than those on payroll.
“Self-employed workers have outgoings and business expenses due immediately, which £94.25 a week in Universal Credit payments simply will not cover. They cannot wait three months to be paid.
“It is vital that government implements an interim basic income for the self-employed, until the scheme is fully operational.”
Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “Bectu has pushed incredibly hard for freelances and the self-employed to have parity with employees and the scale of the chancellor’s announcement clearly sets out to achieve that.
“However, we won’t stop and there are still many details to work through including how those who have paid themselves through dividends will fit into this scheme and also the time-scale.
“We know that the benefits system is under intense pressure with a five week wait for payments to be made and the self-employed and freelancers should have access to the coronavirus business interruption loans made available by the government.”
Equity general secretary Christine Payne welcomed the scheme, adding: “We look forward to offering our advice and assistance as the details of this scheme are worked out and hope that it can be brought online quicker than is anticipated.
“Our priority going forward will be to ensure that as many members as possible can access the scheme, including those whose profits have been reduced by the legitimate expenses incurred in the course of their work.”
The Incorporated Society of Musicians also welcomed the measures, and said it will be “looking closely at the package and advising [its] members and the wider music sector in due course.”