Articles - 20th May 2020

SEISS scheme sees 440,000 accepted on day one

Words by The UP team

UK scheme signs up 440,000 self-employed workers on first day (The Guardian

A government scheme to support self-employed workers signed up 440,000 people on its first day at a cost of £1.3bn, according to the Treasury. 

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said: “Britain’s self-employed workers are a crucial part of our economy and will be key in our recovery – which is why we’re doing everything we can to support them.

“I’m pleased to see our world-leading support scheme is already helping so many people, with more than £1.3bn claimed on the first day alone. This money will ensure the self-employed can get through these challenging times,” the chancellor said.

However, hundreds of self-employed workers have reported being rejected by HMRC after they applied for the grant. This was usually for becoming self employed within the last year when they needed two years of self-employment records to qualify.


Survey shows 67% of freelancers are getting no support (Televisual)

A survey by industry trade body, Women in Film and TV, has found that a massive 67% of freelancers have not been able to access any financial help from government during the COVID-19 crisis.

The survey, that was open to both men and women in the UK Film and TV industry, found that many freelancers are unable to claim under either the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) or the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

The key findings from the WFTV survey reveal that:

Just 16% of PAYE contractors have been furloughed by their employers or ex-employers under the CJRS.

Only 31% of owners of limited companies have been able to make a claim to furlough themselves under the CJRS. And even for those owners who could claim, the majority were only able to claim 20% or less of their income.

And only 32% of freelancers believe they are eligible for support under the SEISS, which is now open for claims on the HMRC portal.


Should furloughed workers offer their skills for free? (BBC) is a non-profit organisation that connects people only to charities. But there are other schemes doing the same for commercial enterprises. For example, Furloughed Life, set up by Techcelerate Ventures, introduces furloughed workers to struggling technology start-ups. They work for free, but the start-ups pay a subscription fee to Techcelerate, half of which is donated to the NHS.

The recruitment site Work in Start-Ups has also created a new section on its website to provide a similar service. Another platform called Look After connects communications professionals “who would rather put [their] skills to use than sit idle” with both charities and businesses.

Furloughed workers are also volunteering their skills informally on social media.

Freelancers and the self-employed don’t have access to the furlough scheme and have been left short of work and income. They only gained access to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme on 13 May, and some complain they are not eligible due to its terms.


Will the income support scheme for the self-employed be extended? (The Telegraph

The Chancellor is facing calls to extend the income support scheme for the self-employed after lengthening the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees until the end of October.

Trade bodies have said half of the nation’s five million freelancers have been left behind to struggle financially and put at the bottom of the Government’s list of priorities.

The income support scheme for the self-employed was announced in March but only launched last week and is limited to just three months. It allows struggling self-employed workers to claim just £7,500, less than half the support afforded to employees.


The Coronavirus is Cutting Into Gig Worker Incomes as the Newly Jobless Flood Apps (Time Magazine)

Before the pandemic, there were millions of people who could make a living, or at least earn decent pocket money, off gig work: driving people from the airport to distant homes, delivering dinners, designing logos for strangers half a world away. 

But as the U.S. unemployment rate approaches 15% and as the International Monetary Fund predicts a 3% contraction in the global economy, people who have relied on gig work for income are seeing their earnings plummet as more people compete for jobs.

Though more people are having food delivered, receiving packages from Amazon and searching online for their graphic design and customer service needs, the surge of new workers has upended the law of supply and demand in the gig economy. 

Put simply, with at least 36 million newly jobless people in America alone as of mid-May, there are now too many would-be workers to make the gig economy viable for many of them, and this may be irreversible as companies adapt to the reality of a global recession. By keeping head counts low, they’ll drive more desperate people into the gig economy, expanding the potential labor pool for jobs and driving down the prices that workers can command.


Arts fund closes temporarily due to high demand (BBC)

The £500,000 Artists Emergency Fund was opened by the Arts Council and Department for Communities on 27 April. It provides grants of up to £5,000 for people to develop work while venues, theatres and galleries are shut.

The scheme has received more than 300 applications for about £1.2m of total funding in just two weeks. As a result, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has had to temporarily close the fund to any new applicants.

In a statement it said it was already considering eligible applications and would respond to all requests within the next two-to-four weeks.

“The Arts Council continues to work with Minister Hargey to determine the level of need within the sector and we aim to offer as much support as possible to individual artists and creative practitioners at this stressful time,” ACNI said.


US Arts and Culture Sector Projected to lose $6.8B (ArtForum)

A new report published by Southern Methodist University’s DataArts center and the data consulting firm TRG Arts estimates that the net effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the United States’s nonprofit cultural sector will be a deficit of $6.8 billion, or the equivalent of 26 percent of the average operating expenses of the arts organization over the course of one year.

The study draws from the activity of roughly 35,000 nonprofits with annual budgets surpassing $50,000 and incorporates information about closures, layoffs, and impact reports. The estimates also hinge upon organizations reopening by October 1, 2020.

The arts and culture industry, according to data from the National Endowment for the Arts, comprises 4.5 percent of the US’s GDP. In March, the American Alliance of Museums predicted the permanent closure of nearly a third of the nation’s museums if the lockdown continued for more than a couple months. On average—and in a healthy economy—arts organizations typically hold less than two months’ worth of capital to sustain their expenses without incoming revenue. 

The projected losses are likely to be compounded by reduced public arts funding as austerity measures are adopted on both the federal and local levels of government.

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