Directors UK, the body that represents UK film and TV directors, has sent a letter to the chancellor asking for urgent help for industry freelancers who have seen work fall away as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

Here’s the letter from Directors UK chief exec, Andrew Chowns

Dear  Chancellor,

I am writing on behalf of Directors UK, the professional association representing over 7,000  screen directors,  to draw your attention  urgently to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on freelance and self-employed workers  in the film and television  industries  and to ask you to consider further emergency measures to support  those working outside of typical employment structures.

The UK film and television production sectors  are  a vital  and growing  area of the UK economy.  Film and television production is reliant upon  a high percentage of  freelance  and self-employed  workers  compared to  the UK average. Almost  all  of  our members are self-employed freelancers.

The nature of the UK production  industry  means it  is  a  collaborative  activity  with crews  working on locations that require travelling around the country and often overseas, interacting with one another and members of the public.

This nature of working is directly contradictory to  government advice  to  limit  social  interactions, work from home and  self-isolate  as necessary  in order to safeguard public health.

The impact of COVID-19  on the production sector is immediate and acute and  we are seeing productions  being shut-down  daily  as it is almost impossible for them to continue  under current restrictions.

This week we have seen the announcements of the BBC Continuing dramas  stopping production,  and Netflix has  suspended  its productions,  among many others  not being publicised. We  anticipate that almost all non-news production activity in film and TV will have to cease within days.

These are unprecedented times and many of our  directors and their  crews are facing long periods of time without work.  As self-employed freelancers they  are not able to access many of the benefits  and support available to employed workers.

We welcome the emergency measures you have introduced to support small businesses, which  should  help those production companies  that  hire  our members. We are, however, expecting that  this  support will not  flow through to the freelance workers who provide   the production resource for these companies, so  there is now a critical need for similar emergency support measures to be introduced for  self-employed workers who are  worried, not just about losing  their current  work, but at the prospect of facing months without income  as productions are suspended longer term and,  for some smaller productions, indefinitely.

We need to ensure that these workers are  supported and compensated during this time to ensure that  they don’t fall into poverty  or lose their homes due to loss of income.  But crucially  we must ensure  they don’t leave the production workforce,  so that when  the public health crisis is  over  they are  able to return to production  quickly  and  the creative economy can be reactivated  speedily to  resume generating income for the UK economy.

Our workforce is well-used  to reacting  quickly to changing circumstances.  In order to do this we need to ensure they are  supported during this period of inactivity.

For our freelance workers  the most  important form of support that  we advocate  is  the  introduction of  a  form of  proportional  income  support  that would guarantee an income to them that is proportional to their recent average income.  If a form of proportionate income were made available to  freelancers  we think this  would  mean that other reliefs and benefit adjustments would not be necessary and that a form of basic economic stability could be maintained  while the outbreak is dealt with.

We  would also urge you to make  it  possible for freelance and self-employed people to access the same level of  sickness pay and protection as is available to all other citizens. We are in communication with our members about  other proposals  and we will  channel  their responses to you as soon  as we  can do  so  with clarity.

We are ready and willing to work with you to help you identify and develop appropriate support packages, and to share the experiences of our members.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Chowns

Jon Creamer

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