Industry group, Women in Film and TV, has launched a new campaign to highlight the huge number of freelancers and self-employed workers who haven’t been able to access government financial schemes.

Each day the organisation will post across Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, the story of a freelancer who has fallen through the gaps of the current schemes.

Liz Tucker, Chair of WFTV said: “We already know from our recent survey that around two thirds of freelancers have been unable to claim under the government schemes, but when you read the individual heart breaking stories of these individuals, the true personal impact of those left with no financial support real hits you. It is simply wrong and deeply unfair that these freelancers have been left with nothing”. 

The daily social media posts from WFTV will reveal the stories of freelancers in genuine financial and mental distress, facing the risk of losing their homes and their livelihoods. 

Here are a few of the extracts from some of the freelancer stories: 

“It’s now nearly 4 months without a job and without pay. I’m 5 months pregnant and facing a further 6 months leave as of October that I should be saving for now, instead I am spending the last of the savings I do have”. 

“If the government acknowledged I am self-employed I could receive £2,500 a month and all my rent and bills would be paid. But instead, I have had to ask for charity funds despite being a tax payer since 1998”. 

“Without question it’s been financially devastating, but the mental anguish has been far worse. With no work on the horizon and a sense of being excluded from help, things have never felt so precarious”. 2 

“Script Supervisor with over 25 years’ experience in TV. Set up as Sole Director of Ltd Company. Furloughed myself and receive £575 per month. I can’t survive on this. Worried sick, isolated with no work for foreseeable future”. 

Liz Tucker: The ultimate irony is that these freelancers who have paid taxes for decades are seeing these same taxes used to fund the government support schemes, yet they are excluded from claiming themselves”. 

In response, WFTV is setting out recommendations for the changes need to the SEISS and CJRS schemes: 

Remove the cap for freelancers earning £50,000/yr or more. Currently, someone earning £51,000/yr is unable to claim anything, whereas someone earning £49,000/yr can claim the maximum amount. 

Allow freelancers working through limited companies to use their combined salary and dividends in any financial grant calculation. And allow those who pay themselves their PAYE salary annually as well as monthly to claim. 

Allow PAYE contractors who are not eligible for furloughing to use their last year’s tax receipts in any financial grant calculation. 

Allow freelancers with less than one year’s accounts to use their 19/20 income to calculate any financial grant calculation. WFTV suggests that the government allows freelancers to file their 5 April 2020 tax return by 31 May 2020, and for their 19/20 income to be the one used to calculate the grant payable. 

Remove the requirement that the freelancer’s self-employed income needs to be more than 50% of their earnings. If someone has only been freelance for several months, it is very likely that they will have made most of that year’s income from non-freelance earnings. 

Where a period of maternity leave has been taken this should be excluded from the three year averaging of accounts for the calculation of grant payable. Currently, anyone who has taken maternity leave will be at a disadvantage. So, we suggest if one of the 3 years used to calculate the financial grant payable has a lower profit due to maternity leave, then that year should be disregarded, and the assessment made only on the two more profitable years. 

Jon Creamer

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