Union BECTU has argued that government support for freelances who will be out of work due to coronavirus is “not good enough”, as industry bodies respond to the Budget 2020.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced the budget yesterday, which included a series of measures aiming to cushion the economic impact of coronavirus on individuals and businesses.
One of the measures announced in the budget aimed to make it easier for self-employed workers to access benefits such as Contributory Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
Head of BECTU Philippa Childs said: “The chancellor’s measures for freelances, removing the income floor and the need to attend a job centre interview, are welcome but using Universal Credit to deliver this help is simply not up to the scale of the challenge.
“The universal credit system has been shown time and time again to lack the robustness to cope with any form of change in demand, so to use it to deliver this help is short-sighted in the extreme.”
Childs added: “It seems that if you are an employee you get support, if you are a business you get support, but if you are a freelance you get left behind.
“It isn’t good enough and the government needs to rethink this plan and put in place a proper support package for freelances before it’s too late.”
The union has launched a survey to assess how freelances are being affected by the coronavirus, which it plans to use to lobby the government for more support.
The Musicians’ Union also called for more protection for freelances.
General secretary, Horace Trubridge, said: “The measures announced in today’s budget are far from perfect, and the MU is aware that statutory sick pay and Universal Credit will not cover the loss of income faced by many members.
“We will continue to lobby the government for additional support for freelances and will update members on a regular basis.”
The Creative Industries Federation welcomed emergency measures to support small businesses and freelances in the wake of coronavirus, as well as the abolition of businesses rates for grassroots music venues and theatres over the next financial year.
Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, added: “As the situation develops, it is imperative that the government offers support to those creative organisations reliant on audiences, visitors and participation, including museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, cultural organisations and live music events.
“Freelances working with these sectors will also face significant disruption to their livelihoods. It is vital they are supported.”
The Treasury has been contacted for comment.