Take action and urge the government to improve support for the self-employed

Following a call with Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week, Equity General Secretary Christine Payne wrote to him to ask for greater support for creative workers in the coming weeks and months.

However, it is now clear that many members are still falling through the cracks, and workers in the entertainment industry are still not getting the support they need and deserve. See below for an example letter you can send to your MP, to help us in our fight for greater provision for the self-employed. You can also download the letter template here.

Commenting on the Chancellor's extension of the Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until October Christine Payne said:

"The Chancellor must now shift his attention to the desperate situation faced by self-employed workers in the creative industries - too many are excluded from the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and they will be waiting until 2021 before their workplaces, including theatres, pubs and live entertainment venues re-open, enabling them to earn a living."

Equity President Maureen Beattie said:

"Performers and other creative practitioners earn on average £10k a year from their work in the Entertainment Industry, and do not fit within the Chancellor's characterisation of those left out of the SEISS. We urgently need dedicated funds for creative self-employed workers in order to ensure that they and their engagers survive this crisis."

Join us in calling for greater provision by sending this letter to your MP. The best way to contact MPs at the moment is via Twitter and email. Find your MP's contact details at https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

Dear (YOUR MP)

Please call for an extension to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

I am a performer/stage manager/director/designer/choreographer and a member of the trade union Equity which represents over 48,000 creative professionals working across the entertainment industries.

Following the announcement by the Chancellor on 12th May that the Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has now been extended until October we need further confirmation that the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will also be extended.

Currently the SEISS will only provide grants covering the period March to May 2020. To enable people like me to survive this crisis it is crucial that the SEISS is now also extended.

The situation faced by self-employed workers in the creative industries is desperate. It is unlikely that the creative sector will be fully reopened until Spring 2021 due to the difficulties of being able to satisfy the requirements of social distancing for workers and audiences alongside ensuring that our work, particularly in the live performance sector, is financially viable.

Too many creative workers are currently excluded from the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and they will be waiting until 2021 before their workplaces, including theatres, pubs and live entertainment venues are able to fully re-open, enabling them to earn a living.

Performers and other creative practitioners earn on average £10k a year from their work in the Entertainment Industry, and do not fit within the Chancellor's characterisation of those left out of the SEISS (an estimated 5% of the self-employed workforce, earning on average £200k).

We urgently need dedicated funds for creative self-employed workers in order to ensure that they and their engagers survive this crisis. This is why I would also value your help in calling for gaps in the SEISS to be urgently addressed, specifically:

  • Adapt the SEISS to incorporate a declaration for those with gaps in income to exclude those years of self-assessments which account for maternity/parental/caring responsibilities.
  • Provide dedicated support for new graduates/entrants into the industry by allowing new entrants to complete a tax return now to HMRC for the period that they have been working in 2019-20. The Creative Industries Federation Survey estimates that 19% of creative workers have already submitted a tax-return for the 19/20 year and a further two-thirds believe they could do so in less than 2 weeks. Only 4% believe it would take them longer than a month to do so.
  • Alternatively, for new entrants and others who fall through the gaps in the CJRS and SEISS, separate hardship funds should be established in England, Wales and Northern Ireland along the lines of the additional funding announced by the Scottish Government, details of which are included below: https://www.equity.org.uk/news/2020/april/equity-welcomes-scottish-government-s-support-for-the-newly-self-employed/
  • For those who fall below the 50% of self-employed income threshold to qualify for SEISS, enable HMRC to assess all income, PAYE and turnover through self-employment to give a more accurate picture of earnings and base the 80% grant payment on this total amount.
  • For D/deaf and disabled workers and other recipients of welfare benefits, provide clarity that SEISS payments will not compromise the receipt of other payments.
  • Transitional protections that are to be included in Universal Credit managed migration should be extended to those claiming legacy benefits and tax credits who have make a mistaken claim for Universal Credit during the Covid-19 crisis
  • Scrap the exclusion for those with profits in excess of £50k and make arrangements for dividends to be included in the SEISS for those who operate through limited companies and PSCs.

Thank you for your help.

With best wishes

Your Name

Your Address – to identify you as a constituent