Chancellor reveals a Self-employed Scheme

Mr Sunak said the scheme covered 95% of self-employed people for whom the majority of their earnings come from that work.

Addressing the nation, 26 March, chancellor Sunak said he would pay the self-employed a taxable grant of up to 80% of their monthly profits up to a maximum of £2,500 for at least three months.

On Wednesday, leading musicians including trumpeter Alison Balsom and violinist Nicola Benedetti wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister highlighting "the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the lives of 4.8 million freelancers in the UK" and urging the PM to support them. The chancellor said figures will be calculated using average monthly profits over last three financial years. Those claiming the grant will be allowed to make a claim and continue to do business.

Nearly a quarter of self-employed workers were already living in relative poverty before the coronavirus crisis threatened their livelihoods, a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggests.

The IFS research indicated that 23 per cent of self-employed workers were in relative poverty in 2017-18 after housing costs were deducted, compared with 11 per cent of employees.

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It comes after warnings from self-employed people in the United Kingdom that they simply can not live off the current benefit of £94.25 a week, equivalent to statutory sick pay. However, he said it would be hard to provide that support where people had been in self-employment for less than a year, citing how the scheme would be more susceptible to fraud.

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"Now that there is a genuine crisis affecting all areas of the economy, it's shining a light on how vulnerable these workers are".

Given that some 50% of creative industry workers are freelance, the government faced heavy criticism in recent days for not looking after their welfare, starting with industry union Bectu. "Maybe one of the things the government could do is the same as the health service, invite many of those staff back to help us get the payments out the door to these self-employed workers".

"It doesn't need to be flawless - we just need a system in place", he told the BBC.

Struggling self-employed people will "sleep easier" knowing that the government has finally announced a coronavirus rescue package, GMB union general secretary Tim Roache said.

Class think tank director Faiza Shaheen said that the stark change in government policy from last week shows public pressure works.

Sunak told the self-employed: "You have not been forgotten".

Mr Molyneux, who is CEO at FreeAgent clarified: "The fact is that contractors and freelancers in particular, do not receive statutory sick pay, holidays, maternity leave or any of the other standard protections that their employed counterparts enjoy".

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