The chancellor’s plan to support self-employed people through the crisis has received a cautious welcome from some who are set to benefit, but others have found they won’t qualify.
Self-employed workers will be able to claim up to £2,500 per month but only if they have been operating for at least a year and take home less than £50,000. Those who do qualify won’t see the money until June.
“I’m devastated,” says Terry Litherland, an electrician in Blackpool.
«I watched [the chancellor’s announcement] with bated breath,» he tells the BBC. «My wife got a bit upset.»
«We’re a family of five – three young children – and he said there’s no support for us.”
Terry was made redundant after ten years working for RBS. Rather than claim benefits, he used his redundancy money to tide him over before setting up last year as a self-employed electrician.
‘I’ve done everything right’
“I don’t do cash-in-hand, everything goes straight into the bank. I have all the evidence you’d need for what I earn,” he says. But, because he’s only been trading for eight months, he won’t get any support.
“I went down this path because I thought, if I go self-employed I can get a regular income and I don’t have to worry about redundancy again. I feel like I tried to do everything the right way. I funded it all myself. Now I’m thinking why did I bother?”
He’s going online now to look for any work he can find in construction or delivery, maybe in the next town, anywhere that can give him paid work.
“I just need to bring money into the house and put food onto the table for the wife and children.”
Vicki Crocker owns Trousseaux, a bridalwear shop in Swindon, but wedding dresses are sitting waiting to be collected and no new customers will be coming through the door for some time.
She isn’t sure exactly how much the new package will benefit her without going through the figures from the last three years, which will provide an average of her earnings. Business had been improving since the shop moved to a new site in the city’s old town.
“We will get something, but we won’t get anything near what we would have expected to get [without the shutdown],” she says.
In the bridal business a lot of money has to be ploughed into new stock each season, which means shops often make losses, so some bridalwear stores are likely to get nothing, she thinks.
“We’re lucky. We don’t owe a lot of money,” she says. But she’s also worried about her suppliers, some of whom make more than the £50,000 threshold.
“I think [the government] has done the best they can in the time they’ve had,” she says. “It’s a good package for the people who it is going to help, but not for the people who don’t get it.”
Roderick Zuskar works as a handyman in Macclesfield. He earned around £18,000 last year painting people’s houses, mending fences and other odd jobs so he will be able to access the chancellor’s support package.
“It will definitely help, thank you very much. But June?” he says. He can’t see how he and his partner will manage until then. She works part-time, earning around £11,000 a year, and they have two children, seven and 10.
“I know trying to help everybody is difficult,” he says, but he questions what he will do for money until June.
Having spent the last week trying and failing to get through to utility companies, the bank and the supermarkets on the phone, he’s worried that the process to access the new finance package, or Universal Credit to tide him over, will be just as difficult.
Roderick is sceptical it can all be handled smoothly and worried it could take even longer than is being suggested.
“Why can’t they pay the broadband or electricity – give us that for free – something simple,” he asks.
Elaine (not her real name), is a self-employed criminal barrister in Birmingham, but she falls through the cracks of the chancellor’s new provisions.
She earned £51,000 last year, just over the threshold for being able to access the support. “I understand £51k is a lot of money for a lot of people, but I am in debt [from taking maternity leave] so there isn’t much left over at the end of the month.”
“My last day in court was Tuesday and I don’t know how long that is going to be for.”
“It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth,” she says, after almost 20 years working for the Crown Prosecution Service.
“I think it’s great that there’s a rescue package, but I don’t think it’s treating the self-employed equally to the employed. If there isn’t an [income] ceiling for the employed, why is there for the self-employed?”
“I’m trying to be stoic and British about it but it irritates me that those who take cash-in-hand payments will benefit because they’ll say their profits were under £50k when we know they weren’t.”
“I might have to go cap-in-hand to family, but it is not what I want to do.”