Calls for Chancellor to pledge tens of billions to ‘forgotten’ freelancers

There are calls for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce a new support package worth tens of billions of pounds this week – for “forgotten” freelancers who have been “left to rot”.

Mr Sunak will on Wednesday make his summer statement, with reports there could be announcements regarding the government’s furlough scheme, potential tax cuts and job creation schemes to help boost the economy following the Covid-19 lockdown.

However there are growing calls from groups across the country who say they have been excluded from every support package unveiled by the Chancellor since the crisis began.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street
(Image: Getty Images)

Campaigners say up to 3m people have been forgotten by the Government throughout the Covid-19 pandemic for various different reasons, with a campaign called ExcludedUK set up to call for change.

They include freelancers whose circumstances have fallen between the requirements for initiatives such as the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) – and who earn via the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system.

Forgotten PAYE was set up to represent an estimated 1.7m “forgotten” freelancers, and is now demanding that Mr Sunak make amends by announcing a support package worth tens of billions of pounds for this group and others.

Speaking ahead of Mr Sunak’s statement tomorrow, Forgotten PAYE’s spokeswoman, presenter and showbiz reporter Ellie Phillips, told BusinessLive: “The dream would be that they announce a new support package for all of those who have been excluded or for those who’ve not had adequate support that brings it into line with what other tax payers have had.

“This must mean they are given – not loaned – the same amount of backdated support others have had. We want those funds to be granted immediately. That’s how urgent the situation is.”

The Forgotten PAYE campaign is calling for a payment of up to £15,000 to be made to each worker who has missed out on support – depending on their circumstances – the amount a worker earning the maximum £2,500 a month would have received from six months’ furlough pay. The amount would, like the furlough scheme, cost the government tens of billions of pounds.

Liverpool-based Ms Phillips said she, like hundreds of thousands of freelancers, was ineligible for both the furlough scheme and SEISS.

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That’s because she is not an employee of any company, but also that she is a PAYE freelancer – and has 50% of her income taxed at source.

Eligibility for SEISS states workers cannot earn over 50% of income from PAYE.

The wider group of 3m “excluded” people also includes those who began their jobs in March, and directors paid in dividends.

Ms Phillips said there was a lot of anger among freelancers – and that she has had “thousands” of people in similar situations contact her with their stories.

She said: “The fact we have been ignored is absolutely disgusting. The fact these freelancers have been discriminated against in a way that is so simple to solve – and yet still hasn’t been done – is really infuriating.”

Ms Phillips was hopeful such a support package could be unveiled this week, not least due to a report by the Treasury Committee last month that called for urgent help for freelancers.

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It demanded that the Government immediately establish “a system of support which ensures that this group of people can access financial support during the crisis”.

Ms Phillips said: “We are hopeful. The report highlighted just how many gaps there are in the support. There are simple solutions that can be given. You have to remain hopeful in these situations. It would be damaging to lose hope as there are no jobs – we are going into a recession.”

Other encouraging signs for the campaign are the £1.57bn government support pledge for theatres, galleries and museums announced on Sunday.

That’s as well as an All-Party Parliamentary Group set up for the ExcludedUK cause, which already has over 110 MPs signed up.

Ms Phillips said she hopes for over 200 MPs to eventually add their names to the group.

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