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ExcludedUK march in London to highlight plight

Written by: Emma Lunn
An estimated 3 million people have been left out of government support schemes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaign group ExcludedUK has joined forces with other key organisations for a day of action today to highlight continued need for Covid-19 support.

The group has arranged a socially distanced march through central London.

The aim is to highlight the plight of those denied meaningful support by government schemes such as the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme and the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.

Workers excluded from government support include limited company directors paid mostly in dividends, people new to self-employment, freelancers earning more than £50,000, and freelancers who are paid on a PAYE basis.

A Panto Parade, which aims to highlight the lack of pantomimes this year and the wider damage to the theatre and live events industries, will also take place on a different route.

Both marches will end at Westminster ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Once both marches reach Westminster there will be a number of speakers including: Nica Burns (Nimax Theatres CEO), Philippa Childs (Head of Bectu), Paul Fleming (Equity general secretary elect) and Anneka Hicks (ExcludedUK).

MPs are invited to come and meet participants, who will self-organise into groups of up to five, to find out how the pandemic has affected them and what further support is needed.

The groups are coming together to call for:

  • The government support schemes to be adapted to ensure those who have not been eligible are able to access urgent support.
  • An extension to the furlough scheme for the theatre and live events industries until Spring 2021 and also an exemption from employers’ contributions.
  • An extension of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) until 2021.
  • Government-backed insurance for live events and theatre performances.
  • A subsidised theatre ticket scheme while social distancing remains in place.

Later in the evening #WeMakeEvents will be asking venues to turn red as part of a co-ordinated day of action to highlight the lack of events taking place across the UK. A number of projections are also being organised on key venues and buildings in London.

Sonali Joshi, one of the founders of ExcludedUK, says: “3 million individuals and businesses have been excluded from meaningful government support, with little to no income for six months. This has resulted in severe hardship, mounting debt and a mental health crisis, and the longer-term impacts are set to become more acute amid so much uncertainty ahead.

“Livelihoods and businesses across diverse professions and industries all across the UK are affected and people need support urgently. We call on the government to act now to support those who have not been helped during the pandemic through no fault of their own.”

Philippa Childs, head of union Bectu, says: “The challenges facing theatre and live events are too acute to continue to be overlooked. The government’s well intentioned announcements have failed to deliver meaningful support or the certainty that is needed so far.

“The economic contribution of these industries, through the commitment of the workforce, punch well above many other sectors. We have lost the magic of panto for this year and we hope our calls and this collective action will allow theatre to return well before the panto season in 2021.”

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