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Covid-19 support for self-employed “proving problematic”

Debt advice charities warn the incomes of self-employed people across the UK a “falling like a stone”, as chancellor Rishi Sunak admits putting support measures in place is proving more “problematic” than for employees.

Last week, Sunak announced an “unprecedented” wage subsidies package for those in employment, in which he pledged that the government would cover 80 percent of workers’ wages up to £2,500 as part of efforts to preserve jobs across the country.

 

Despite repeated calls for a similar scheme to be put in place for the UK’s five million self-employed the chancellor has admitted that there are “genuine practical and principled reasons why it is incredibly complicated an analogous scheme to the one that we have designed for employed workers”.

 

Charities, such as the Money Advice Trust, have warned that many self-employed people needed immediate help, writing to the chancellor to underscore the urgency of the situation.

 

“There is an inequity between the welcome support package announced last Friday for people in work, and the level of help available to those who work for themselves,” Money Advice Trust chief executive Joanna Elson said in her letter to Rishi Sunak. “As the situation stands, the latter only have improved access to the benefits system to fall back on.

 

“The likely delay in setting up a new system to provide the support that is needed makes it even more important that immediate financial support is made available to self-employed people who fall into financial difficulty due to Covid-19 in the short term,” she added

 

Elson called on the chancellor to create a dedicated self-employment hardship fund to get financial help in the interim to “those who desperately need it now”.

 

This, she said, should be separate to the £500m Covid-19 hardship fund being administered by local authorities and funded by central government.

 

Yesterday (March 24), the government proposed and an amendment in the government’s Coronavirus Bill to make provisions for the self-employed. The chancellor told the House of Commons that a package for the self-employed would be announced “in the coming days”.

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