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ExcludedUK: Budget self-employment support is ‘too little, too late’

People who became self-employed in the 2019/20 tax year will now be eligible for government support but Sunak has been warned change will only help 150,000 people “excluded” from support

Campaign group Excluded UK has branded the self-employed support announced at the Budget is “too little, too late” for the three million workers so far “excluded” from financial help during the pandemic.

Rishi Sunak’s announcement means people who became self-employed in the 2019/20 tax year would become eligible for the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant covering the months February to April this year.

ExcludedUK has been calling on the Chancellor to support three million people excluded from support, including self-employed workers, zero-hour contract workers and PAYE freelancers and more, throughout the pandemic. But Sonali Joshi, ExcludedUK co-founder, said today’s announcement will do little for the 10 per cent of the UK workforce already “plunged into debt and poverty”.

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Joshi told The Big Issue: “ExcludedUK welcomes the extension of SEISS with the inclusion of 2019/2020 tax returns in the calculation of trading profits, for which we have been campaigning vigorously over the last year. However, we know that at least three million taxpayers and households have been affected and even with this further support it does not account for this last year of decimated incomes and businesses for those who are now included, for whom this may be too little too late.

“The majority of those who have been shut out of meaningful support thus far will continue to be excluded from the schemes and so many have been plunged into debt and poverty, often in the hardest hit industries and supply chains.”
Sunak said the self-employed grants – worth 80 per cent of three months’ average trading profits up to £7,500 – will boost more than 600,000 people who have previously been “excluded” from support. 

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SEISS will continue until September with a fifth grant available to claim from July, Sunak confirmed as he described the programme as “one of the most generous in the world” at the Budget.

The scheme will become more targeted as the economy reopens at the end of summer with those who have seen their income fall 30 per cent still eligible for 80 per cent of their trading profits while those with less of a loss receiving 30 per cent of the entitlement.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gaps in Support, warned the support will only help 150,000 people, citing Office for National Statistics self-employment figures

Frankly, that is a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the problem

“After months of pressure from the APPG on Gaps in Support and campaign groups around the country, the Chancellor has finally accepted that he needs to address the gaping hole in support for the newly self-employed.

“But behind this announcement lies yet more pain and suffering. Frankly, that is a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the problem, and unfortunately represents another kick in the teeth for PAYE freelancers, those denied furlough, the newly employed, limited company directors and many others.”

More than 100 MPs, experts and campaigners, including Money Saving Expert guru Martin Lewis, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham, signed an open letter to the chancellor from ExcludedUK alongside 3,485 individuals and businesses ahead of the Budget.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran was also among the politicians backing the campaign. She said: “The Conservatives have failed to right the wrong of excluding 3 million people from financial support during this pandemic, despite our repeated cross-party calls to fix this. 

“And the Government need to get their facts straight – according to the APPG Gaps in Support, their inclusion of more people in the SEISS will only help 151,000 people, not 600,000 as they claim. As a proportion of three million, it’s shockingly low. This must be fixed now.”

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