Over 100 MPs ask Chancellor to extend self-employed help

Yshani Perinpanayagam plays piano Image copyright Dimitri Djuric

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is facing calls from MPs to extend help offered to the self-employed.

They have written to him, warning many would not be able to work once it ends.

One worker in this situation is Yshani Perinpanayagam, a musical director for a show at the Royal Shakespeare Company. When lockdown began, it was cancelled and her work dried up.

She still has some composing and recital work but says she feels “quite unsafe.”

“If the self-employment scheme does not extend, I will not be safe,” she says.

Ms Perinpanayagam does not know how she is going to feed herself.

Her current household expenses have been covered by savings, she says.

She worries that when the rest of the UK returns to normal life but still cannot buy tickets to the theatre, the gap between the self-employed artist and the rest of society will widen.

“If people are missing mortgage payments, there is already an understanding that they need help without them having to prove anything.

“But the self-employed will really have to justify why we can’t pay our bills if the government is not taking a stance that we are worthy of help.”

She adds: “It’s a very difficult corner to fight”

MPs sign letter

Ms Perinpanayagam’s remarks are echoed in a letter sent today by 114 MPs urging the Chancellor to extend the self-employed income support scheme, which ends this weekend.

Under it, the government has given those who qualify a grant of 80% of their average profits, up to £2,500, for three months.

Image copyright Sarah Vermeersch
Image caption Yshani Perinpanayagam plays piano

Amounts are based on reported earnings from the last three years.

The scheme’s future hangs in the balance and the clock is ticking, say MPs, who signed the letter urging for its extension.

MPs from almost every party in parliament have signed the letter, written by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh.

“Under review”

“This scheme is a lifeline for millions of locked-down workers right across the country. There are already significant holes in the support, but removing what is already in place would pull the safety net from under the feet of millions of self-employed workers,” said Ms McDonagh.

How can it be right for the furloughed scheme to continue but this scheme to not?”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been asked to consider extending the scheme

While the letter congratulates the Chancellor on the programme, it warns that it is too soon to end government support for the self-employed because many have seen their work dry up.

Earlier in May, the Chancellor said in the Commons that the scheme was “under review” but since then, he has not given any indication of its future.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister also said extending the scheme was “under review”.

For full time employees on furlough however, the Chancellor has confirmed, support will continue until October.

People “delivering pizzas”

So far, 2.3 million self employed have signed up grants totalling £6.8bn, including Ms Perinpanayagam.

She also worries that despite efforts in the theatre and broader creative industries to be more inclusive of people from less wealthy backgrounds, a lack of support from the government will make it impossible for artists to survive if they did not come from a privileged background.

“A lot of people I know have been getting out and delivering pizzas, instead. There is this feeling that everyone is abandoning ship because of a lack of trust in the government to help them,” says Ms Perinpanayagam.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has also sent a letter to the Chancellor calling on him to extend the support scheme.

Its letter also suggests he look again at those who did not qualify for the program in the first place.

This included newly self-employed, those who took maternity leave in the last three years and those with limited companies.

IPSE estimates that 1.6 million sole traders and limited company directors have been left out of the self employment scheme, so far.

The letter is co-signed by creative unions and associations including the Creative Industries Federation, BECTU and Equity.

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