Eligible freelance journalists and photographers will be able to claim up to 80 per cent of their earnings in a cash grant from the Government, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.
But they will not get the first payment, designed to help them get through the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, until the start of June.
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Sunak (pictured) said the new self-employed income support scheme would see the Government pay people a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of average monthly profits from the past three years.
It will pay out up to £2,500 per month for at least three months, with the payment coming at the start of June backdated to March.
Freelances will be able to claim the grant and continue to do business.
The scheme is open to those with profits of up to £50,000 for whom the majority of their income comes from their self-employment.
Sunak claimed 95 per cent of self-employed people would be able to benefit and said anyone with an immediate cash flow problem could access universal credit in the meantime.
Part of the reason payouts will not come until June is that the Government has offered anyone who missed the 2019 tax return deadline another four weeks to submit it, so that they are eligible for the new scheme.
Sunak described the scheme as “fair… targeted at those who need it the most, crucially it is deliverable and provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people”.
He said the announcement gave self-employed people parity with employees who were last week promised up to £2,500 each month in wages from the Government if they are furloughed during the pandemic.
Pamela Morton, freelance national organiser for the National Union of Journalists, said: “Freelances had all but been forgotten, so we are pleased the Treasury has listened to us and our sister unions, as many of our members are desperate and facing a frightening future with all their work cancelled.
“We welcome the offer from the Treasury to look at the details and how the deal will work for members, but our concern is about how soon the funding will reach people.”
Philippa Childs, head of union Bectu which represents technical staff including cameramen, said: “Bectu has pushed incredibly hard for freelancers and the self-employed to have parity with employees and the scale of the chancellor’s announcement clearly sets out to achieve that.
“However, we won’t stop and there are still many details to work through including how those who have paid themselves through dividends will fit into this scheme and also the time-scale.”
Last week Press Gazette reported that freelance journalists and photographers were calling for better financial support as many were seeing their work diaries “wiped out” during the pandemic.
Picture: Matt Dunham/Pool via Reuters