The government have introduced a variety of financial measures to support individuals and their families through the coronavirus crisis. However, many individuals and organisations have raised concerns that these measures do not go far enough and that many are not receiving sufficient support or are falling through the cracks entirely.
Concerns have been raised for are the self-employed. In particular, respondents tended to mention lower-paid self-employed people and those who had begun self-employment over the past 3 years, who either receive little or no benefits from the SEISS:
“Self employed – like me for less than 2 years cannot get benefits, so we are living off our “fat”.”
“Self employed who haven’t earned enough over the past 3 years will have nothing. Too many are falling through the gaps.”
“So many people I know who are self-employed have minimal savings but seen their work simply end. They are often ineligible for government support or the support isn’t enough for them to support their family long term.”
There have also been concerns raise about the 80% pay offered by the government’s furlough scheme. For low-income workers, especially those who rely on commission, there is concern that this does not offer them enough money to support their living costs.
“Financial worries as [I’m] only getting 80% wage, child maintenance massively reduced and having to pay legal fees to try and resolve contact issues.”
“I have two income sources. One I am furloughed on a rate that is below the minimum wage pro rata, because I have monthly contracts and in the reference month last year, I took on less work due to a holiday and Easter church commitments. I am awaiting news of a possible lift of furlough with a contract that counts as key work. My other income is for independent field research which is being sharply compromised by being unable to travel to observe churches in action. The period the research grant is due to cover will be extended. The combined effect is that I am monitoring whether it might make sense to apply for ESA, but I hesitate to immerse myself in the benefits system whilst I have some savings, as I know how stressful it is from past experience.”
Without changes to address these gaps in government provision, the lockdown and social isolation measures will continue to have an adverse economic effect on the self-employed and those with low-income.
These findings come from the report ‘Gleanings: Listening and learning to poverty under lockdown’, produced by Church Action on Poverty and JPIT.