Government support for freelancers

Posted on: March 27, 2020 by Claire Meadows

Freelance journalists and photographers will be able to claim up to 80 per cent of their earnings in a cash grant from the Government, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.

But they will not get the first payment, designed to help them get through the coronavirus crisis, until the summer.

And there are fears the move will not help with hyperlocal publications, many of which face imminent closure due to the crisis.

The new self-employed income support scheme will see the Government pay people a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of average monthly profits from the past three years. It will pay out up to £2,500 per month for at least three months, with the payment coming at the start of June backdated to March.

Freelances will be able to claim the grant and continue to do business.

But while freelances appear to have welcomed the move, it is feared the support will not be available for the owners and publishers of small, hyperlocal publications.

Emma Meese, Director of the Independent Community News Network which represents over 100 local publications, said her members could not hope to keep operating without support.

“They are not freelancers as such but the majority of them are sole traders. They will not be able to claim this support and many, many of them face going under very soon unless there is some sort of interim funding for them,” she added.

The government’s self-employed support scheme is open to those with profits of up to £50,000 for whom the majority of their income comes from their self-employment.

The Chancellor described the scheme as  targeted at those who need it the most: ‘crucially it is deliverable and provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people’.

He said the announcement gave self-employed people parity with employees who were last week promised up to £2,500 each month in wages from the Government if they are furloughed during the pandemic.

Pamela Morton, freelance national organiser for the National Union of Journalists, told UK Press Gazette: “Freelances had all but been forgotten, so we are pleased the Treasury has listened to us and our sister unions, as many of our members are desperate and facing a frightening future with all their work cancelled.

“We welcome the offer from the Treasury to  look at the details and how the deal will work for members, but our concern is about how soon the funding will reach people.”

Philippa Childs, head of union Bectu which represents technical staff including cameramen, told the news website: “Bectu has pushed incredibly hard for freelancers and the self-employed to have parity with employees and the scale of the chancellor’s announcement clearly sets out to achieve that.”