I have received hundreds of emails from constituents in recent days regarding the lack of support for self-employed people at this difficult time. Many of those who have written are self-employed themselves and already struggling to make ends meet.
My Labour colleagues and I continue to put pressure on the Government to rectify this as soon as possible. We welcomed the announcement that the Government will pay 80% of salaries (up to £2500 per month) if businesses retain their employees, but only minimal help has so far been put in place for the self-employed. Many people will be forced to claim universal credit, which amounts to only £94.25 per week.
Ideally, we should look to the examples set by other countries’ governments in supporting self-employed and freelance workers. Norway, for example, has included the self-employed and freelancers within its income protection scheme, meaning that they are entitled to claim the equivalent of 80% of their average pay over the past three years.
Although I have not been able to speak about this personally in the House as I am currently in self-isolation, I have signed Kevin Brennan MP’s EDM calling for the introduction of a temporary universal basic income to support freelancers. We are hoping for a positive update from the Government in the near future.
In the meantime, Government advice for the self-employed who have lost work suddenly is to claim Universal Credit (UC). You can find out more and begin the process online here: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/
Whilst UC claims are dependent on any savings you have, making a claim will enable you to access National Insurance credits. It is important to keep your contributions up to date so you do not lose eligibility for other state support should your circumstances change.
You may also be eligible for lay-off pay from the Government: https://www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking/guarantee-payhttps://www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking/guarantee-pay