It is already clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a devasting impact on our economy and the livelihoods of people across our country. Yesterday’s forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility outlined a scenario where GDP would fall by 35% and unemployment could rise to a staggering 2 million people. Across Dulwich and West Norwood residents have been going to extraordinary lengths to act responsibly, maintain social distancing and support our vulnerable neighbours. There have been many personal sacrifices, and many families are suffering loss of income and other hardships.
Despite the announcement of government support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, there is evidence that some people are falling through the gaps. I have been working hard to raise these issues directly with the Chancellor and other Government Ministers.
Under the Job Retention Scheme the Government will cover 80% of the wages of furloughed staff for at least three months. If you believe that you are eligible for this scheme, you should discuss this with your employer as soon as you can. Whilst this scheme provides welcome support for many people and will prevent redundancies, only workers who were on PAYE contracts on the 28th February 2020 were initially covered. This would have resulted in a number of people who had started a new contract or changed employers in March finding that they are not eligible for support. I have previously written to the Chancellor on this issue and I am pleased that the Treasury has today announced that the scheme will cover anyone employed on or before the 19th March. However, this still fails to protect those employed on serial PAYE contacts, particularly affecting workers in creative industries .
I campaigned hard for the government to announce support for self-employed workers, and I welcome the announcement that grants will be made to self-employed people of 80% of their average income up to £50,000. However, I remain concerned about the absence of support for the directors of sole-operator limited companies, whose pay comes from dividends. Although, very often the profits of such companies are not high, people in these circumstances have been offered no financial support so far.
I am also concerned about how self-employed people who have only recently switched to self-employment and people whose income comes from a mixture of employment and self-employment will be assessed under the scheme. Finally, many constituents have contacted me regarding the cap on support for anyone who makes profits over £50,000 per year – particularly affecting families in London with higher living costs, and single-earner households. I have written to the Chancellor to request that each of these issues are urgently addressed so that no-one is left behind.
If you are worried about your eligibility for support under the current schemes, you should also contact the Department for Work and Pensions to understand your eligibility for Universal Credit or Job Seeker’s Allowance as soon as possible. If you have any difficulties applying for either please do contact me including your full national insurance number and any reference numbers for your application. Together with my small team, I am working very hard to respond to everyone who has been in touch on Covid-19 and any other issues. Please bear with us as we work through a huge volume of correspondence at this time.
You may also find it helpful to look at the Citizen Advice Bureau’s specialist advice on Coronavirus support here and contact them for guidance on your particular circumstances.