Support for the Self-Employed in the Coronavirus Crisis

*** UPDATE 26th March 2020 - The Chancellor has announced our support package for self-employed people.*** 

(The original article is below.) 

 

I am mindful of the understandable concerns raised by the self-employed during this crisis - not least because I was one myself.

I raised this concern on the 17th March with the Chancellor, saying:

Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)

I warmly welcome the package that has been announced today, but my constituency is home to one of the largest concentrations of self-employed people in the country. Will the Chancellor please commit to looking at what further help might be given for them…?

Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer)

I know that my hon. Friend is a champion of the self-employed. Some of the measures announced last week at the Budget will benefit them, as will, indeed, some of the loan and other grant measures announced today, depending on their circumstances, but my hon. Friend is right and we will of course keep an eye on that issue as we develop these packages.

I know, because I have asked, that the Government is working around the clock to ensure the necessary support is provided to self-employed workers and to see what more it may be possible to provide. This is however an immensely complex area and it takes time to formulate policy, bearing in mind the financial support already offered is the biggest policy initiative certainly since the war, and possibly of all time.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury gave a firm commitment from the despatch box earlier today (24th March 2020,) in the clip that you can view above:

“I say to the self-employed: we have not forgotten you and further help is coming - but the policy and delivery is complex.”

I understand that the Chancellor is meeting with representatives of the self-employed today (24th March 2020,) and I am hoping that deliverable measures will be brought forward shortly.

If you are not already aware, the financial support that has already been announced, much of which will assist the self-employed, can be found here, but the relevant provisions are:

  • Self-employed workers are eligible to claim Universal Credit at a rate which is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay (currently £94.25 per week). You do not have to be unwell to claim this. Universal Credit is designed to provide people with a safety net if they're unable to work, or top up incomes for those in work, though how much you get is subject to means testing. Once your eligibility to claim Universal Credit has been established, you may be able to apply for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction through your local authority. You can find out more and apply here
  • We have temporarily removed the 7 waiting day requirement in ESA and we have relaxed Universal Credit’s Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed people – meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate that is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. And we are relaxing the requirement for anyone to physically attend a JobCentre – everything can be done by phone or online.
  • Self-assessment tax payments have been delayed until January 2021. This means self-employed workers will not be required to make the next scheduled tax payment which would ordinarily fall due on 31st July. 
  • The government has postponed reforms to the off-payroll working rules (IR35) until April 2021. 
  • And, if you are VAT-registered, you will not be required to make your next payment until June 2020 (postponed by three months). 
  • Introducing a three month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty due to coronavirus – so that people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet.