I fully understand how difficult and challenging the pandemic has been for businesses, traders, freelancers and self-employed workers who have not been eligible for government support over the past eleven months.
This has left millions of businesses and self-employed workers facing an extremely precarious financial situation. Many have been forced to rely on whatever savings they have, or the generosity of friends and family just to try and simply make ends meet.
During the pandemic people have worried about how they are going to feed their children, or keep the heating on, over what has been undoubtedly the most difficult of financial situations for decades.
Although people continue to receive financial assistance through the furlough scheme or the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the Government continues to ignore a group of around three million people who have fallen through the gaps.
These people have not been eligible for support due to the strict eligibility criteria.
Some had started a new job and had not been on the payroll long enough, others, had taken the massive step to start up a new business and did not have sufficient trading history to quality for support.
Almost a year has passed and the ‘Excluded’ remain forgotten about by this government.
These are genuine, hard-working people who have built up businesses and paid taxes all their lives.
Those who have been excluded span many different categories of workers, including, but not limited to, employees who were denied furlough or were ineligible for it, which includes new starters; the self-employed, including those newly self-employed; those over the £50,000 threshold; those who earn less than 50% of their income from self-employment; directors of limited companies who are paid annually or via dividends, or directors of such companies that are not yet in profit; and PAYE freelancers.
They now find themselves facing hardship with little of the current support available to them.
They have done nothing wrong to warrant being cut out of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
What’s more, our communities are going to need as many of them as possible when the pandemic is over.
I have already raised this matter in Westminster and I will continue to do so.
It is appalling that the Chancellor has repeatedly refused to do anything to address these injustices.
Universal Credit is mentioned as the fall-back. However, let’s face it, Universal Credit is nowhere near adequate, otherwise, the Government would not have felt the need to create the furlough scheme or the self-employed income support scheme in the first place.
I also remain extremely concerned about the impacts on mental health on many of those excluded from support.
My plea to the government is to listen to how those that have been and continue to be ‘Excluded’ are feeling and to put adequate support in place.
The way they have been treated during this pandemic is disgraceful and will have consequences for our ability to recover in 2021 and beyond.
With the vaccine offering hope of a return to normality, the cost of extra support must be weighed against the damage caused if the ‘Excluded’ continue to be ignored.