Open letter to Chancellor and Secretary of State: Equity members need financial support

Dear Chancellor and Secretary of State,

Equity members are in urgent need of financial support.

Creative workers have endured a year of devastating blows, with lockdowns, tier systems and the recent cancellation of all indoor and outdoor performances. Tentative attempts to return to work in the sector have repeatedly met with disappointment as social distancing restrictions tighten, while uncertain, shifting timelines have made it impossible for many creatives to plan for the future.

Amid this ongoing uncertainty some have been able to return to their workplaces – such as those in the film and TV sectors – but they have faced obstacles including insurance exclusions and, just in the last week, the removal of performing artists from quarantine exemptions.

The reality for most of our members, including thousands of people who regularly work throughout the community in care homes or delivering theatre in education, is that there is no route back to work any time soon.

With this crisis certain to last for months to come, our members will soon pass the year’s mark since our industry’s closure – a year without regular, reliable income for the vast majority of our membership.

They are in serious need of financial help.

Previous government schemes have proved inadequate and patchy at best.

Most creative workers are self-employed with no recourse to the furlough scheme, yet 40% were excluded from the SEISS. Of those that were able to access the scheme, 59% did not find it sufficient to meet their basic needs.

While some additional support measures for freelance creatives have been introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including through the Cultural Recovery Fund, those in England have not received any further help.

We call on you to urgently implement the following:

  • Widen the support available via the SEISS grant to include new entrants with a 2019/20 tax return, those operating through PSCs and other excluded groups.
  • Supply as a matter of urgency eligibility details on the fourth SEISS grant, particularly whether it will continue to be based on 80% of average profits
  • Continue the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit beyond the end of April 2021
  • Continue the £20 uplift in universal credit standard allowances beyond April 2021.

Creative workers need action now. Already 23% of Equity members have had to take on debt or additional debt since March and 70% of our members are feeling negative about work prospects over the next 6 months.

The future may be uncertain but it is clear that it will be many months before events and gatherings resume and the performing arts can begin to rebuild. Our members cannot wait that long. Many are already struggling to stay afloat.

The UK’s entertainment industry is world leading and worth £112bn to the economy. Without swift intervention we risk losing the foundation it is built upon: the people, talent and experience of the workforce.

Yours,

Paul W Fleming and Maureen Beattie
Equity General Secretary and President