24 April 2020
On Tuesday 21st April, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture in the Scottish Government, announced a £100m support scheme for the newly self-employed and firms suffering economic hardship as a consequence of Covid 19. The scheme is comprised of three different funds, and whilst we welcome the entire package, we write with regard to the £34m set aside in order to provide £2,000 grants to the newly self-employed in Scotland.
As the Chair and Vice Chair of Equity’s Young Members’ Committee, we were elected as a key part of our trade union’s democratic structure representing and promoting the interests of young workers in the entertainment and creative industries. Equity represents more than 48,000 working people – performers, directors, stage managers, designers, choreographers, comedians and many more.
Since the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme was announced, Equity has been overwhelmed with comments and concerns from members about the inadequacies of the scheme in its current form and we believe that too many people will not be able to access any financial help at all beyond the small sums available through Universal Credit. As Matt Hancock MP acknowledged on Question Time recently, £95.85 per week is not enough to live on.
We are particularly concerned about the detrimental impact this will have on younger workers in our industries, many of whom are recent graduates or recent entrants to our industry. As newly self-employed people, they are ineligible for the SEISS. We believe that the support offered by the Scottish Government should be rolled out across the United Kingdom to ensure that workers in our industries in the UK’s other nations are not left behind.
Precariousness is built into the fabric of the entertainment industry, and new entrants to our industry are already suffering as a result of losing work and opportunities lined up prior to our sector shutting down. In the best of times, people in our industry are often low paid and money is tight, but the impact of coronavirus means that the people we represent are experiencing extreme financial hardship, which will not be ameliorated in June when the SEISS opens as they are not eligible for it. Equity's Young Members' Committee is gravely concerned about the potential detrimental impact of people’s post-coronavirus financial positions on their ability to return to the sector they have trained for and begun to establish careers in. This is a significant problem – if workers cannot afford to return to our industry when this crisis is over, or do not have the opportunity to establish themselves in an industry where doing so is already difficult enough then our world-leading industries are at risk and the advances our sectors have made on questions of representation and inclusion are in jeopardy.
The long-term health of our sector and the contribution we make to our national life depends on our people being taken care of now.
The many gaps in the state support offered to date will result in an intolerable number of people falling through the gaps. As millions of us stay at home watching Netflix, iPlayer, theatre streaming and more, the country is reliant on the work our members and others across our industries have made to keep us entertained through lockdown.
We will need a strong and vibrant culture sector when this crisis is over, and the people in that sector need and deserve support.
We look forward to your response.
Guy Woolf & Sam Swann
Chair & Vice Chair of Equity's Young Members' Committee
cc. Oliver Dowden, Jo Stevens, Tracy Brabin, Anneliese Dodds