Thank you for contacting me about COVID-19 and support for the creative industries.
I recognise the valuable contribution the creative industries make to the UK economy. I share your concerns about the difficulties faced by the entertainment and theatre sectors over the highly important Christmas season due to the dramatic drop-off in demand because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. I worry Government support for culture is not working and is unlikely to reach some of those hardest hit.
Whilst I welcome the £30 million top-up for the Culture Recovery Fund, I would have liked to see further action. I believe the fund’s scope should have been widened to allow applications from previous recipients, commercial productions and individuals, as well as speedier payments so self-employed and freelance workers could have their contracts honoured, to avoid businesses and workers falling through the cracks in support.
I would also like to see the Government undertake an urgent review of the Live Events Reinsurance Scheme which is both expensive and limited in scope.
I have long called for greater support for people in this sector who have been excluded during the pandemic from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. I remain concerned many are still excluded from needed help.
As you know, the Chancellor announced a reduction in Universal Credit (UC) by £20-a-week from October 2021. This cut has now taken effect. I agree with you that UC should not have been reduced at this time and that the Minimum Income Floor should not have been reintroduced.
The Government restarted the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for employers with fewer than 250 employees to claim up to two weeks’ sick pay per employee. I believe we must improve the level of statutory sick pay and increase its coverage to reflect the modern world of work. It was an issue before the pandemic, but inaction has made people poorer and tragically will have led to an increase in the spread of the virus.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue. I agree nobody should be left behind during the coronavirus recovery, and I will continue to press for the creative sector to receive the support it needs.