Many journalists, especially those working as freelancers, face hardship during the Covid-19 crisis.
Women in Journalism has created an easy guide outlining where help and assistance can be provided.
The organisation says it hopes the guide can be brought to the attention of as many journalists as possible who may be in need of support at this time.
A condensed version of the WIJ guidance can be found below.
To read the WIJ guidance in full, follow this link.
Coronavirus support: What every journalist needs to know. By Donna Ferguson (@DonnaLFerguson)
If you are a journalist feeling anxious about your income during the coronavirus crisis, we have some good news: there are many places you can go to get support. This is true for staffers and freelancers alike.
The government has announced packages of support for both employed and self-employed workers. You can find out more about the government assistance you can potentially get at the end of this article.
However, Women in Journalism is aware that not all journalists will be covered by these government support schemes, and that some of you may need more urgent financial assistance.
We therefore wanted to highlight to our members the charities that offer hardship funds specifically for journalists needing emergency financial assistance.
Here’s a quick round-up of what’s on offer from the four main charities that have funds for this purpose:
The Journalists’ Charity
You are eligible for emergency financial assistance from the Journalists’ Charity if you have been working as a journalist (and earning your main income from journalism in any format) for at least the past two years.
The charity is ready and willing to help employed and self-employed journalists who have lost their income and cannot pay their bills due to the coronavirus outbreak. “If you have a payment to make immediately, you can contact us and explain you’re in an emergency,” says CEO James Brindle.
How to apply for help: Visit https://journalistscharity.org.uk/how-we-help/advice-financial-assistance/, download the form and fill it in. Or for help, advice, and guidance around an application you can call number or email email@example.com For help, advice, and guidance around an application, email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to donate: Visit https://journalistscharity.org.uk/support-us/ to make a donation to support other journalists in financial hardship at this difficult time.
You are eligible for emergency financial assistance from the National Union of Journalists’ hardship fund, NUJ Extra, if you have less than £12,000 in savings and have been a full member of the NUJ for at least a year.
The charity says it will consider applications from any eligible journalist who has lost significant income as a result of the coronavirus. However, it will prioritise: NUJ members who are carers; NUJ members with financial dependents, who are the sole income earners in their household; and NUJ members who have no other available support.
The charity will prioritise paying journalists’ bills, where failure to do so would lead to imprisonment. “If you don’t pay your council tax and your TV licence, bizarrely, you can go to jail for it. It’s an offence.”
How to apply for help: Fill in the application form https://www.nuj.org.uk/work/nuj-extra/application-form/ and email it to email@example.com
How to donate: Visit https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/433#!/DonationDetails
The Printing Charity
The Printing Charity is a very old charity that aims to help people working in print, publishing, packing and the graphic arts. This means that, for example, journalists working in print can potentially access its hardship fund and get practical, emotional and financial support from the charity.
To be eligible, you must have worked in print, publishing, packing or the graphic arts for three or more years.
The financial support you will be offered will be based on assessment of your overall financial position and access to state support and other benefits.
How to apply for help: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01293 542 820 to discuss what you need.
How to donate: Call 01293 542 820 to find out how to do this.
The Rory Peck Trust
Since 1995, the Rory Peck Trust has given support to freelance journalists and their families when they need help. This usually means freelancers who have been seriously injured, threatened, imprisoned, detained, forced into exile or killed as a result of their work.
At the moment, The Rory Peck Trust is trying to understand how it can best meet the needs of freelance journalists and support them through this crisis.
A statement on its website says: “Right now, our team is working hard on a COVID-19 assistance initiative for freelance journalists so we can support some of those whose livelihoods have been worst affected by the pandemic. Please tell us what you need most by completing our short survey. Forward it on to other freelancers so we can tailor our assistance and support as many people as possible.”
The charity is asking freelancers to complete the survey by Sunday 29th March so that it can take the feedback of these journalists into consideration as it develops its programme of assistance.
How to apply for help: Visit https://rorypecktrust.org/freelance-assistance/assistance-grants/, contact the Trust by telephone on +44 (0) 20 3219 7867 or email email@example.com.
How to donate: Visit https://rorypecktrust.org/support-us/#donate
Cutting your monthly costs
A detailed list of suggested ways in which you can cut down your monthly costs during the crisis is listed on the WIJ website.
Advice includes, taking a mortgage holiday; getting a refund on your commuting costs and using the money you have been saving for your tax bill in July.
Get help from the government
There are two types of workers the government is intent on helping through this crisis. The first are employees, and the second are self-employed sole traders – but only if they earn their main income from self-employment, have filed accounts for at least the 2018/2019 tax year, and earn profits of less than £50,000 a year.
The finer details of these schemes are still emerging, but it is likely that many journalists will not fall into either of these categories. For example: journalists who set themselves up as limited companies and pay themselves dividends, journalists who are sub-contracted via an agency, and journalists who went freelance after 5 April 2019. The bad news is, it looks as though none of these journalists will be eligible for anything except Universal Credit.
I’m an employee.
If you’re a staff writer, and are unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak, speak to your employer. If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll – even if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do at the moment. The government defines this as being ‘on furlough’. You can be on any type of contract – including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract.
The grant will start on the day you were placed on furlough and can be backdated to 1 March. You could get paid 80% of your wages, up to a monthly cap of £2,500. You’ll still have to pay taxes on that, and you cannot undertake work for your employer while on furlough. The government expects the scheme to be up and running by the end of April.
If you’re a freelance journalist, earning more than half of your total income from self-employment, have filed a tax return for at least the 2018/2019 tax year and your average annual trading profit is less than £50,000, you will be eligible for a government grant for the next three months. This may be extended.
Inevitably, scammers will attempt to use confusion about these schemes to try to swindle you out of your cash.
Do not respond to emails pretending to be from HMRC or asking you to click on a link and enter your bank details.