The vast majority of the U.K.’s creative freelancers remain shut out from government support, with the Treasury so far refusing to commit further funds.
Trade union Prospect and its entertainment division Bectu met with Treasury officials this week to continue lobbying for support for those workers who aren’t covered by the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). A recent survey by The Film and TV Charity found that 74% of film and TV freelancers were not eligible for government support schemes, or had not been furloughed.
Elsewhere, the theater sector has been devastated by the pandemic. Industry org Society of London Theatre (SOLT) estimated on Thursday that more than 200,000 theater jobs across the country could be at risk, with many theaters now “facing a perilous future.” Around 70% of venues are expected to “run out of cash” by year’s end without an alternative model to social distancing.
Last week, the government extended its furlough scheme via the CJRS — through which employers have been able to apply for grants covering 80% of employee salaries, up to £2,500 ($3,100) a month — until the end of October; however, from July, employers will need to split the cost of paying salaries. It is also still unclear whether the SEISS initiative, which allows the self-employed to claim up to 80% of their earnings, up to £2,500, will be extended.
This week, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy and head of Bectu Philippa Childs raised a number of concerns with the Treasury, including whether limited company directors can be allowed to access the SEISS; getting support for pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) freelancers who are still excluded from the CJRS; concerns about how the CJRS will be used if employers are expected to pay an increased contribution; and whether the SEISS will be extended.
The Treasury has yet to commit to any action, according to Bectu.
A number of government officials, such as Labour shadow culture team members Jo Stevens MP and Tracy Brabin MP, have been lobbying the Treasury for more freelance support.
Stevens, who is Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sports secretary, wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week on behalf of PAYE freelancers, highlighting that many people working in film and TV have no way of accessing support because the PAYE element of their income exceeds 50% of their income, so they are excluded from the SEISS or their employer can’t furlough them.
Bectu’s Childs said: “We are acutely aware that the entire economy is suffering at the moment, however, the Treasury must recognize that many freelancers in the creative industries have not had access to any support at all since coronavirus spread throughout the country.
“Half of these people are now borrowing money our latest survey has found, which demonstrates the urgency for solutions to be found as quickly as possible.”