MPs show support for #ForgottenFreelances
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17 September 2020
Caroline Lucas MP has called for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to be extended beyond October, and for those who have been left out to be included and given backpay.
The Green Party MP, who had secured a House of Commons debate on the plight of excluded freelances, said Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been lobbied by numerous groups, including the NUJ, pointing out those who had not been covered.
As part of the #ForgottenFreelance campaign, the union wrote to the Chancellor and briefed MPs on its members who have fallen through the scheme’s cracks because they are paid PAYE, do not have a year’s tax return, are limited company directors, or because their self-employed work (under self-assessment) is less than 50 per cent.
Caroline Lucas referred to one of her constituents, working PAYE for the BBC, who had fallen foul of the package’s rules. She said the Chancellor had been deaf to the pleas of the left out self-employed, including a petition signed by 348,000 people, calling for the SEISS to be re-examined.
Figures from a NUJ survey published in May suggested that a third of its freelances believed the compensation proposed in the scheme would not cover their losses. Those whose work disappeared overnight found they could not claim universal credit because their savings, put by to pay tax, put them above the threshold for eligibility.
MPs, from all parties, who took part in the debate, spoke out for the 3m self-employed from those in the creative industries, to barristers, taxi drivers, carpenters and wedding planners who all play a vital role in the economy and who’d had no access to the SEISS.
Kemi Badenoch, Exchequer to the Treasury, replying for government, said the government had tried to be flexible and had provided many freelances with financial support, but she did not agree to meet Caroline Lucas who said the impression the self-employed had was that they were still forgotten and the government had not helped them.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“The ongoing plight of freelances and the self-employed, who have been cast adrift simply because of the reality of their employment status, is severe. We are in touch with the Treasury and hope to engage in meaningful dialogue to offer practical solutions and proposals to ensure that all workers can have a vital lifeline and support at a time when freelance commissions and opportunities have been badly hit.”