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Government criticised over financial exclusion of millions of self-employed

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The Labour leader launched an attack on the government and Boris Johnson over the three million self-employed people who have been excluded from financial help since March.

Speaking during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Keir Starmer said: “The trouble is that the British people are paying the price for the mistakes of the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

“If they had handed contracts to companies that could deliver, public money would have been saved.

“If they had extended furlough sooner, jobs would have been saved.

“If they had brought in a circuit breaker when the science said so, lives would have been saved.

“Let me deal with another mistake. The Chancellor’s repeatedly failed to close gaps in support for the self-employed. Millions are affected by this.

“It’s bad enough to have made that mistake in March, but seven months on, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says the scheme remains – their words ‘wasteful and badly targeted for the self-employed. Many self-employed continue to be left out in the cold’.

“After seven months and so many warnings, why are the Chancellor and Prime Minister still failing our self-employed?”

In response, Johnson said: “Unquestionably this pandemic has been hard on the people of this country and unquestionably there are people who have suffered throughout the pandemic and livelihoods have suffered.

“But we have done everything that we possibly can to help and as for the self-employed, 2.6 million of them have received support and across £13bn.

“We have also uprated Universal Credit that will continue until next year.”

Johnson added that Starmer also now “champions Universal Credit” but “he stood on a manifesto to abolish Universal Credit”.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

Last week the government announced eligible self-employed people will be able to receive a third SEISS grant worth up to £7,500 to cover November to January.

And the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit claimants will remain suspended until the end of April 2021.

However, an estimated three million self-employed are excluded from financial support as they fail to meet the eligibility criteria.

This includes:

  • The newly self-employed and new businesses
  • The self-employed with profits above £50,000
  • Workers in less than 50% self-employment
  • New parents on parental leave
  • Workers on PAYE freelance short-term contracts
  • Low investment start-ups
  • Small limited company owner-directors.

Many people who fall into these categories have had little or no income or revenue since March, with no prospect of change on the horizon.

Campaign group ExcludedUK has been lobbying the government for these people to be offered support from the government.

Another group, ForgottenLtd, is asking for help for small limited company directors.