A BARNSLEY MP’s survey into the government’s self-employment support scheme has found four in five people haven’t had the help they need to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
John Healey, MP for Wentworth and the Dearne, launched the survey into the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) in June and heard from hundreds of people who claim the scheme has not done enough to see them through the period unscathed.
With the scheme - which has seen more than £25m given to people in Barnsley - set to wind up in August after a second round of grants, John has sent the survey responses to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and urged better support for those who run their own businesses.
John said: “I’m concerned that the Government’s financial support package has left out hard-working self-employed workers in favour of backing large firms and PAYE-employed workers.
“It should not be just big business that survives Covid-19. Sole traders and small business owners are the backbone of our local economies, with 28,000 self-employed workers registered in Rotherham and Barnsley alone.
“I want to thank everyone who completed the survey. Their responses shine a harsh spotlight on how tough trading continues to be for self-employed workers and how flawed the Government’s support scheme has been.
“The findings are stark. Those who are self-employed and still facing pressure from the Covid crisis need more support.”
The SEISS gives eligible self-employed people grants worth up to 80 per cent of their average monthly profits.
A single grant covering three months of profit was offered to claimants, capped at £7,500.
According to figures released by HMRC last week, of Barnsley’s eligible 11,600 self-employed individuals, 9,000 claimed a total of £25.4m by June 30.
Claimants can continue to work and can also access Universal Credit.
John, who observed there was no mention of further support for the self-employed in the Chancellor’s July 8 ‘mini-budget’, said three out of four respondents said the grant was ‘not enough to keep their business going’.
Half of the people who responded said their business would be at risk when the scheme ends, and just under two-thirds think the way it’s been calculated is ‘unfair or very unfair’.
Of those who responded, 13 per cent have had to close their business permanently and 97 per cent have lost income.
Other arguments came from those whose business was less than 12 months old, or whose income is bolstered by other employment, meaning they couldn’t access grants due to government criteria.
Some have had to go into debt or rely on foodbanks.
John added: “Rates of new Covid-19 cases in South Yorkshire are higher than the England average and this is leaving local businesses that have recently reopened worried they will be locked down again - just as Government support dries up.
“Businesses are innovating and battling to trade as best they can to help pull the country through this pandemic period, and my survey shows a clear-cut case for Government extending support for the self-employed and making that support more flexible.
“It is almost four months since lockdown began and the government has had time to prepare a fairer plan targeted where it is most needed.”
The MP is asking for the scheme to be extended past August for certain sectors, including support for freelancers prevented from working, for it to take into account historic tax records for those who were employed elsewhere before April 2019, and to lift the savings bar for claiming Universal Credit in order to help those with savings needed to run their business.
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