‘June is too long’ - Norfolk’s self-employed workforce on new income support
A package of measures to support the freelance workforce has been met with mixed reaction by self-employed workers in our region.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed the new self-employed income support scheme yesterday evening, have already outlined the benefits for PAYE staff. Mr Sunak said: “The government will pay self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus a taxable grant worth 80pc of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month.”
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Mr Sunak said the scheme will be available “no later” than the beginning of June.
He said that it will be open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000 and will only be available to those who make the majority of their income from self-employment, to ensure only the “genuinely self-employed” benefit.
“And to minimise fraud only those who are already in self-employment who have a tax return for 2019 will be able to apply,” he said. “Ninety-five per cent of people who are majority self-employed will benefit from this scheme.”
But some of those affected in Norfolk said the fears over fraud had delayed the scheme too long for those genuinely in need.
Glyn Charnock, owner of Chameleon Cleaning and Historic Carpet Care in Taverham, said: “It’s taken too long for something to be done – there’s nothing we can do about that now.
“We’ve been told that the delay is due to fears over some self-employed people actually earning more during this outbreak than they did at other times.
“Any decent and honest person wouldn’t dream of doing that - which many of us are. I understand there needs to be another stage of checking eligibility, but there’s going to be plenty of time to rectify this.
“The announcement for PAYE employees was made almost a week ago, and we’ve had no clarity or assurances until now.”
He added that further provisions may be needed further down the line. Mr Charnock said: “What I will say is that although parity between PAYE employees and self-employed people is appreciated, we do have higher unavoidable costs – some more so than others. That may need to be looked at further down the line.”
This was a key concern for Norwich’s largest taxi company ABC Taxis, which operates by working with self-employed drivers. Day driver manager Chris Ford said ABC had actively encouraged drivers to seek as much financial support as they could - even if it meant working for other businesses. “At the end of the day we want our drivers to earn money, and do what needs doing,” he said. “We’ve told drivers they can split shifts working between us and doing delivery for a supermarket or courier. When this is over they know they have a job with us to come back to.”
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He added: “Our operations manager has also been looking at bringing down overheads for everyone. If a driver wants to do delivery work then they can return a vehicle - if it’s owned by us - we take them off the insurance for the time being and it brings down their payables.
“Of course I’d encourage any other businesses who work with self-employed people to make similar assurances at the moment.” However Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of self-employment trade union Community said that June would be “too long for many” to wait. He said: “Millions of self-employed workers have been waiting for action and will be reassured that support is on its way.
“Waiting until June will be too long for many of the self-employed who already are struggling to make ends meet. We urge the government to ensure the systems to deliver this are in place as soon as possible to ensure cash gets into the pockets of freelancers and the self-employed urgently.”