Financial support


The purpose of this briefing is to help members understand their rights to the different kinds of financial support available during the Coronavirus pandemic and how to claim.

We are routinely updating this briefing to reflect changes to government policy as/when they occur.  This briefing was last updated on 30/03/20 following the chancellor’s statement on 26/03/20 - see:

Equity’s general advice on Coronavirus can be found here:

A quick guide to the support available to you can be found here:

Equity’s Coronavirus update for those working in Theatre and Live Performance can be found here:

Equity’s Coronavirus update for those working in Recorded Media (Film, TV audio etc.) can be found here:

Equity’s Coronavirus update for those working in Variety, Circus and Entertainment in general can be found here

This briefing covers the following:

1. Financial support for Employees (PAYE) including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
2. Those who have been working on Equity contracts
3. Financial support for those who are not employees
    a) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
    b) Those already claiming benefits
        i) Out of work benefits
        ii) In work benefits
        iii) Those already claiming UC
    c) Those NOT claiming in/out of work benefits
        i) Sick or self-isolating (CESA or UC LCW)
        ii) Basic eligibility conditions for UC
        iii) Those who are NOT sick or self-isolating but with low/no income
4. Appealing Minimum Income Floor (MIF) decisions
5. UC advance payments
6. Help with rent
7. Mortgages
8. Children's living costs/childcare costs
9. Council tax
10. Utility bills
11. Tax measures
12. Financial help from charities and public bodies
13. Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line contact details
14. Lobbying your MP

Appendix 1. UC GSE guidance (businesses receiving little or no income)


1. Financial support for Employees (PAYE)

On 20/03/20 the Chancellor announced that employers will be able to apply to the government for support to continue to pay workers who are not currently able to work due to the Coronavirus lockdown. This is called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), and details have recently been published. It may be particularly helpful to members who have ongoing mainstream employment (PAYE) work, even if on a zero hours contract basis. To check to see whether you will qualify for support from the scheme, see

Please note: even if you receive support through the CJRS you may still qualify for a Universal Credit as a top up for living and housing costs. See section 3 C) below for further information on claiming Universal Credit. You can also use an online benefit calculator to check how much UC you might receive taking into account any support through CJRS - see or contact the Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line (see section 13).

If you are an employee (PAYE) and your employer is not continuing to pay you at this present time, your options are as follows:

  1. If you are sick or self-isolating due to Coronavirus, claim Statutory Sick Pay and state benefits to cover additional living costs (see section below). For advice on claiming SSP (paid at £94.25 per week) and how to get an ‘isolation note’ rather than visiting your doctor, see
  2. If you are not sick, claim state benefits (see section 2 and section 3 below).

2. Financial support for those who have been in Equity contract work

Please contact the relevant Equity industrial team for further advice on what payments if any are owed to you following the cancellation of work due to coronavirus. Please see the links above for general advice from each relevant industrial department.

Members in this situation are likely to also need to apply for state support in order to pay for living costs on an on-going basis – see next sections.

3. Financial support for those who are NOT employees

a) Government Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

On 26 March the Chancellor Rushi Sunak announced a package of measures to assist self-employed freelancers. Initial information about the scheme can be found here:

What follows is a broad outline as the detail has not yet been published or passed into law:

  • This will be a taxable grant administered by HMRC
  • It will be based on 80% of average monthly profits over the last three tax years up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
  • It is aimed at those working for themselves whose business has been adversely affected by COVID-19
  • The scheme will have a duration of three months (currently) and should be operational by the beginning of June.
  • Payments will be covered retrospectively from the beginning of March. The duration of the scheme may be extended.
  • It is open to those with trading profits of up to £50,000.
  • You will need to have filed a tax return for 2018/19 although there will be a grace period of four weeks to file a late return if you have not already done so. You will need at least one year’s declared profits to be part of the scheme; otherwise you will need to apply for support from the welfare system.
  • In order to qualify the majority of your income will need to come from self-employment.

The government will identify who can apply and they will be asked to complete an application. The application process will include a check to see that you are still trading.

Because the SEISS is unlikely to be paid for at least two months (as of the date of this briefing), we recommend that you claim Universal Credit now if you savings are below £16,000 (if you have a partner this will be your savings combined).  If you have already made a claim for UC, we recommend that you continue to claim. For more details on Universal Credit, see section 3B iii) and section 3C below.

If savings are above £16k, you have no other choice but to wait for support from the SEISS scheme; although you may be able to apply for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme (see section 11 below).

b) For those already claiming benefits from the state

We are unclear how the SEISS scheme will interact with existing benefits.

We are expecting it will be possible to claim from the scheme even if you are receiving benefits, and that making a claim will not terminate although the income will need to be taken into account, however we cannot advise further until the detail is published. We will be updating this briefing as soon as that happens. We advise that members should wait until then before taking any action as there may be adverse consequences.

i) Out of work benefits

For those claiming OUT OF WORK BENEFITS (income related Employment and Support Allowance, Income based JSA, Income Support, and Housing Benefit), it is highly likely that you will not need to claim Universal Credit during the Coronavirus crisis and will be much better off financially staying on your current benefit package.

ii) In work benefits

For those claiming IN WORK BENEFITS (Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit) it is highly likely that you will not need to claim Universal Credit during the Coronavirus crisis and run the risk of being worse off financially if you do so. Members in this situation should update the Tax Credit Office and their local authority housing benefit office of their reduction in income so that their current benefit packages can be recalculated and they can be paid more support.    

Please note:

  • The government have announced that the rate of Tax Credits and Universal Credit will be increased by £20 a week for one year from April 6th, meaning claimants will be up to £1040 better off on either benefit.
  • If you become unwell while claiming Working Tax Credits (WTC): you can continue to claim and receive WTC while being unwell for a maximum of 28 weeks. You should contact the Tax Credits Office (TCO) to let them know this applies to you, and provide a re-estimated amount for expected earnings in both 2019/20 and 2020/21. Call 0345 300 3900.
  • For WTC you must be in remunerative work; for employment (PAYE) this is the hours that you work in exchange for payment. We appreciate that it may not be possible to fulfil this criteria if you work has stopped due to Coronavirus. This condition may be relaxed - we will keep members informed about developments.
  • Remunerative work for self-employment within WTC is less restrictive to take into account the fact that self-employed people have to spend a lot of time on activity that is not paid in order to generate paid work. The rule is that you must be working for payment or in expectation of payment. Therefore it is possible to argue that you are doing remunerative self-employment work for tax credit purposes if you continue to engage in essential self-employed activity for the hours which is generally not paid, for example time spent applying for the role and auditions, networking and marketing, applying for funding, research and writing, self-taping, essential administration to keep the business going, etc.
  • You can combine both employment and self-employment work hours in order to meet the remunerative work test for WTC. Exactly how many hours you need to work in order to be eligible for WTC will depend on your circumstances. You can get WTC if you are at least 16 years old and either you or your partner are working for 16 hours or more per week, provide that at least one of the following conditions apply:
  • You are a single parent responsible for a child or QYP or
  • You are a couple, one or both of you are responsible for a child or QYP, one of you works 16 hours a week and you work at least 24 hours a week between you or
  • You are a couple, one or both of you are responsible for a child or QYP, one of you works 16 hours a week where the other partner is either in hospital, in prison, entitled to Carers Allowance or ‘Incapacitated’ (broadly this means receiving a sickness or disability related benefit, please contact the Advice and Rights helpline for more advice) or
  • You or your partner (whichever of you is working) qualifies for the disabled worker element - this is a significant element of disabled people – for further information please see or please contact the Advice and Rights helpline for more advice  or
  • You are aged 60 or over

In all other circumstances, you can only qualify for WTC if you are aged 25 or over and work at least 30 hours a week.

  • We strongly advise members in this position to read Equity’s Tax Credit briefing - see
  • If you have paid class 2 NIC in tax years 2017/18 and 2018/19, you can claim the National insurance based form of the state sickness benefit – Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (CESA) – in addition to WTC. This will be taken into account as income for WTC but you will still be better off financially. Let the TCO know about this change in circumstance in order to avoid being overpaid.
  • If you have not paid class 2 NIC as outlined, you will not be eligible for CESA. It is no longer possible to claim the means tested version of ESA as it has been subsumed into Universal Credit. Therefore your option would be to claim Universal Credit instead, however there are majority pitfalls in doing so – specifically that your HB will also be terminated if you are receiving it, you will go without UC for 5 weeks before the first payment is made, and you will miss out on transitional protection for those moving from the old benefit system to UC (according to current rules). You may be better off simply reporting a reduction in income so that you receive more HB/WTC than moving onto UC in the short and longer term. To discuss the specifics of your case, please contact the Tax and Welfare Rights Helpline (see section 13 below).

iii) If you already claim Universal Credit

You should continue to claim and update the department each month with any earnings and income received. Make sure to report any further changes to your household so that you receive the maximum amount that you are entitled to.

If you have been found Gainfully Self-Employed (GSE) and are subject to the Minimum Income Floor or MIF (see section 3B ii below) we advise that you go on to your UC journal and post a request to the department that the MIF is lifted in accordance with recent government advice You should still remain GSE. If not, seek advice on your appeal rights (see section 13 below).

C) For those who are NOT already claiming benefits from the state

i) If you are sick or self-isolating

You are able to claim state benefits if you are sick or isolating due to Coronavirus.  For benefit purposes this means that you are either:

  1. Infected or contaminated with Coronavirus disease (sick)


  1. In isolation (‘self-isolating’); meaning that you are to separate from any other person so as to prevent infection or contamination with Coronavirus disease in accordance with latest Government advice. Currently self-isolation is defined as needing to stay indoors if you or someone else you live with has  symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). For more information see

Please note: A person can be in isolation when they live with other people such as family members or in multiple occupancy dwellings.


  1. Caring for a child or qualifying young person (up to 18 yrs old if still in education) who is a member of your household and who is either in isolation or infected or contaminated with Coronavirus disease.

Please note: the above does not include where a person:  

  1. Has NOT been advised to isolate


  1. Is looking after a child or qualifying young person whose school or nursery has been closed as a precautionary measure, and the child or qualifying young person has NOT been advised to isolate.

After you have figured out whether you are either sick or self-isolating for benefit purposes you should check your eligibility for Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (CESA) otherwise known as ‘New Style ESA.’ It is the state benefit that is paid to people who are unable to work due to ill health and covers basic living costs not including housing and council tax costs. 

Eligibility is based on your national insurance record – essentially you will have need to have paid class 2 NIC in tax years 2017/18 and 2018/9. See for more detail.

The benefit of claiming CESA is that it is not means-tested therefore you will receive it regardless of whether you have a partner or savings. But CESA only covers your essential living costs as an individual. You will need to claim Universal Credit for further help if you rent and/or have children.  This is means tested (savings over £6k taken into account). For further information, see below.

To claim CESA, call 0800 328 5644 to start your claim. Unfortunately the only way to start a CESA claim is currently by phone - see To claim additional support for rent and children, you should also start a claim for UC claim but you can do this online by going to

If NOT entitled to CESA, you should be entitled to the equivalent support through Universal Credit on grounds of ‘Limited Capability for Work’ (LCW). The government have confirmed that UC claimants, who are ill or self-isolating due to coronavirus, are treated as having LCW from day one without having to serve any waiting periods for both CESA and UC (Limited Capability for work).

You will not need to supply a sick note.

ii) Basic eligibility conditions for Universal Credit

For more information on UC, see our briefing at

UC is subject to means testing. It is calculated on a monthly basis. You need to declare more income and capital that you have and on an on-going basis. Key points are as follows:

  • Earnings: 63% of any earnings you receive are taken into account; wages, payments for self-employed work and other contracts for work, as well as residual/repeat fee payments or similar would fall into this category.
  • Other forms of income: such as monthly insurance payments or NIC based benefits much as CESA and maternity allowance are usually taken into account in their entirety (pound for pound).
  • For savings of £6k or more, there is a £4.35 monthly deduction monthly deduction for every £250 you have over £6k.
  • Charitable Payments are disregarded altogether; as is the value of your home if you own it/pay a mortgage, and payments for disability related benefits such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance.

To claim Universal Credit due to limited capability for work due to ill health, claim online by going to We would recommend that you check your assessment of UC is correct as soon as you receive your first payment by contacting the Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Service (see section 13 below).

iii) If you are not sick/isolating, but have low or no earnings

You should still claim Universal Credit even if you intend to claim from the SEISS scheme if your savings are under £16k in order to get some financial support as soon as possible (see also section 5 below).

Those who are usually employed or whose majority of income comes from employment (PAYE) in the main should be considered usually employed but currently with low or no income, and their UC calculations will be assessed on any PAYE income received, or not as the case may be, in each  monthly assessment period.

During the UC claiming process, you are usually asked a question along the lines of ‘do you expect to receive any self-employment earnings within the next month?’  If you have no self-employment work, you should answer ‘no’.  However, if you are usually self-employed, or your majority income is from self-employment, you should then make an entry on your UC journal as follows:

‘Please note: I am registered as a self-employed performer with HMRC.  But I have no self-employed work at the moment due to Coronavirus.’

As of the date of writing, the government have finally relaxed the unfavourable treatment of the ‘Gainfully Self-Employed’  (GSE). Previously this meant that if your self-employment was deemed to be your main type of work, your main form of earnings and your self-employment was a ‘Trade, profession or vocation is organised, developed, regular and carried on in expectation of profit’ then a notional amount of income known as the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) was applied to your claim each month and treated as your earnings regardless of whether you met that threshold. If you earned more than the MIF, your higher earnings were taken into account. The MIF figure was usually based on National Minimum wage x 35 hours per week. For more info see

Following the Chancellors’ statement on 20/03/20, the MIF will no longer be applied to those who are GSE and who have been ‘affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.  This is to apply from 6/4/20. If you have recently made a claim for UC and the MIF has been applied to your claim now, see section below for advice on MIF appeals.

Please note: the suspension of the MIF is a temporary arrangement that will last will last for the duration of the outbreak. Following this, the MIF is likely to resume and cause further hardship for members. We will keep members posted on developments.

For the moment however, you should still be asked to provide information about your self-employment to show that you are gainfully self-employed. Guidance on GSE interviews can be found at (see page 5 in particular).

It has recently been confirmed that you will no longer be required to attend the job centre for a GSE interview. As of the date of writing we are not clear on the new process that the DWP will be using to establish whether claimants are gainfully self-employed. We will keep members posted on developments.

Our advice is that members are currently better off being found to be GSE as due to the suspension of the MIF as this means that you will NOT be subject to work related requirements as part of your UC claim, otherwise known as ‘conditionality’. For more information see

4. Appealing GSE and MIF decisions

If you have claimed UC and been found GSE since the outbreak of the coronavirus with the MIF applied we would advise that you appeal this decision.   

To be clear – it is now not a problem to be found GSE due to the relaxation of the MIF for those whose self-employment has been ‘affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.’ It is the application of the MIF that should be challenged if applicable.

DWP guidance states that self-employed people whose businesses are receiving low or no income should NOT be considered gainfully self-employed, and therefore not subject to the MIF. This is set out at paragraphs H4054 to H4056 of the guidance.[1] We provide a copy of this guidance at the end of this briefing (see Appendix 1) and encourage members to send this to the DWP when making their UC claims.

Members can now also cite the chancellors announcement that the MIF is to be suspended -

If the MIF is applied to your UC award, you should register an appeal straight away. You will know whether the MIF has been applied if you receive a GSE decision letter on your UC journal stating that you have found to be GSE and the MIF is going to be applied to your award. 

You have a month from the date of the decision on this letter to start the appeal process. It begins with the DWP having to carry out a ‘mandatory reconsideration.’ You should post a ‘mandatory reconsideration' request to your online UC journal as soon as possible and no later than one month from the date of the decision. In your MR request, explain that you think the DWP have the facts and the law wrong in your case. Re-explain the facts of your case; that your business is receiving no/little income due to coronavirus. Then explain that you believe the DWP have made a mistake in relation to the law. Reference the DWP guidance on businesses receiving no/little income. Explain that this applies directly to your situation therefore you should not be found GSE or have the MIF applied.

You will then receive a decision. If it has not been changed, you have a month from the date of the decision to register an appeal with HM Courts and Tribunal Service (an independent court).  Complete appeal form SSCS1. Go to to download the form and compete. In the section where it asks for you grounds, copy the grounds set out in your mandatory reconsideration request. Then print off and send by recorded delivery post.

At any point throughout this process, you can call the Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line for further advice (see section 13 for contact details).

5. UC advance payments

UC is not paid for the initial first five weeks of claim. You can request a UC advance as part of your claim (it will need to be paid back). The government said that they are seeking to ensure that the processing of advanced payments is accelerated. Apply for an advance payment via your UC journal or call the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644.

6. Help with rent

This should be provided as part of your UC claim. Help with rent is currently capped depending on what type of accommodation you live in and who lives with you, however the government have said that they will be increasing the amount of support available to cover at least 30% of market rents in your area from April 2020. This will apply to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants. Those renting from the council or registered social landlord should find that their rate of rent is already much lower than private rents. To check what you are entitled to go

The government have also announced that additional protection from eviction from renters will be coming into force: see See also

After claiming Universal Credit, if you find that there is still a shortfall in your rent, you can apply to your local authority for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) to cover this cost, however as these payments are discretionary, you have limited rights to challenge a refusal.  If you are, please contact Equity’s Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line for further advice (see section 13 below). DHPs are usually applied for online via your local authority website. To find your local authority website, go to

7. Help with Mortgages

As of the time of writing, Universal Credit mortgage support is only offered in the form of a loan for interest-only mortgages, and only after nine months of claiming UC. 

However on 17/03/20 the government announced that mortgage lenders will now be offering a three-month holiday for people in financial difficulty as a result of the virus. We recommend that members contact their mortgage providers directly for further advice.  

For further information see

8. Costs of the child/childcare costs

When claiming Universal Credit, an element added for living costs for children, paid at £277.08 per month for the eldest child, and £231.67 for other children, but subject to a two-child limit as of the time of writing. If the two-child limit affects you, or you think it will do once you have claimed UC, please contact Equity’s Tax and Welfare Rights helpline for further advice.

In relation to childcare, nurseries and all childcare providers across the UK have joined with schools in having to close to everyone except for vulnerable children and children with a parent identified as a key worker. As of the date of writing, we are not aware of any additional support being provided to those with childcare costs. Support with childcare costs provided through Tax Credits and Universal Credit should cease following a one month run on. We will keep members posted of any developments.

9. Council Tax Reduction/Support

Council tax reduction/support is a mean tested rebate provided by the local authority to help with the cost of council tax. Each local authority administers its own scheme and eligibility criteria can differ. You usually apply online applied for online via your local authority website. To find your local authority website, go to

10. Utility bills

Various measures are being introduced to help people pay their utility bills – see You can also apply to the entertainment charities for support – see next section.

11. Tax measures

Apart from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme referred to in section 1 above, the Chancellor announced other measures on 20 March to assist small businesses. Two of these measures - Business Rates Relief and Small Business Grant Funding - are only of assistance to those paying business rates.

Time to Pay arrangements: HMRC have set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities and may be a able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangements. They are also waiving late payment penalties and interest where businesses are experiencing difficulties in paying taxes due to COVID-19. For further information and a helpline number see

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: this is a loan scheme to businesses backed up by the government to the extent of 80% on each loan. It will be interest free for the first year. You would need to have an existing business account and would also need to have been eligible for the loan had the COVID-19 crisis not happened. More details and a full list of qualifying criteria see:

Payments on account: the Chancellor announced that any payments on account due in July 2020 will not become payable until January 2021. On 20/03/20 the Chancellor announced that self-assessment payments expected in July 2020 will be deferred until January 2021. This will help self-employed members paying tax on account to HMRC.

Please note: as of 01/04/20, we assess that no other coronavirus related announcements made by the chancellor in relation to tax or other changes for small businesses will be applicable for members who are trading as self-employed (sole traders).

12. Financial help from charities and public bodies

The leading theatrical charities have come together to centralise information about how and where you can access support during this crisis. Please choose carefully where you apply as different organisations have specific remits they will ask you to meet.

In addition to the above, the following support may be of use to members:

Entertainment Charities: there are several entertainment charities that may be able to help Equity members in financial difficulties. Awards are made on a discretionary basis. For a list of the charities available see the Tax & Welfare section of our website. You can apply for help in addition to applying for state support however you will need to meet their eligibility criteria. Most charities will want to see that you have applied for the state support that you are entitled to before they consider making an award.

Equity Benevolent Fund: this is run by Equity trade union for Equity members.  Equity is putting significant funds into the Equity benevolent fund to help members during this crisis. We will soon be promoting a drive for donations to this fund. The fund is typically used for help for one-off payments to cover bills etc. Please email

Arts Council Funding: the Arts Council will be making £20 million of emergency funding available to artists, creative practitioners and freelancers who have a history of public service culture. For more details on this scheme please see

Creative Scotland: have put together three funding programmes designed to provide further support to sustain Scotlands creative community during the COVID-19 outbreak.  For more information see

13. Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line

For further information and advice, please contact the Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line at Equity. We are open on Mondays and Thursdays from 10-1pm and 2-5pm. Call 0207 670 0223 or email   

14. Lobbying your MP

Equity continue to lobby the government for better state support for members during the Coronavirus Pandemic. We have prepared a template email for members to send to their MPs which sets out continued issues of concern. We encourage members to contact their MPs, especially those members who do either do not currently qualify for support during this time or are not getting adequate support. See

Please note: Whilst the material contained in this briefing is believed to be accurate, no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting, or refraining from acting, as a result the material contained herein can be accepted by Equity.  The material contained in this Guide is believed to be accurate at the date of publication, 1 April 2020, but will be subject to change

Appendix 1: DWP GSE guidance paragraphs H4054 to H4056

Businesses receiving little or no income

H4054 A claimant who has already been determined to be gainfully S/E may experience times where their business is not generating much by way of an income. However, this does not mean that they are no longer gainfully S/E for the purposes of UC.

H4055 In order to determine if a claimant is still gainfully S/E, the DM should consider

  1. if there is a reasonable prospect of work in the near future and
  2. if the business is a going concern and regarded as such by

2.1 the person or

2.2 the business’s bankers or

2.3 any creditors or

2.4 others and

  1. if the person is genuinely available for and actively seeking alternative work and
  2. if the person hopes or intends to restart work in the business when economic conditions improve and
  3. if the person is undertaking any activities in connection with the self employment and
  4. if there is work in the pipeline and
  5. if the person is regarded as S/E by HMRC and
  6. if the person claims to be anxious for work in the trade, profession or vocation. Is the person making it known that the business can take on work? For example,

8.1 by advertising or

8.2 by visiting potential customers and

  1. if the interruption in question is part of the normal pattern of the

9.1 person’s work or

9.2 work that the person is seeking.


Not all of these questions will be relevant to whether a person is still gainfully S/E. It will depend on the facts of the particular case.


Ira is in receipt of UC and has previously been determined to be gainfully S/E. He runs a business that supplies and fits doors and windows. Due to competition in the area the business has received fewer and fewer orders, until now there are none. As Ira’s earnings have been consistently below the minimum income floor (see H4060), he is called back in for a Gateway Interview. Ira states that he has been unable to pay the rent on his shop and the landlord is threatening eviction his business has debts and the bank has advised that the business should be wound up he can not find a way of boosting his trade there is no work in the pipeline at present he is still regarded as S/E by HMRC he still has an advertisement in the Yellow Pages.

His earnings are negligible but they are derived from a trade and they are therefore S/E earnings. Based on 1. 6. above, the DM determines that the work is no longer regular and there is no expectation of profit. The DM determines that Ira is not gainfully S/E.

H4056 The DM should make a determination on gainful self-employment based on a balanced view of the evidence. These are matters of individual judgement for the DM concerned.