Chancellor confirms additional government grant support for self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said an increase in payments to the self-employed was a response to a "rapidly changing health picture". Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

THE UK Government will increase the support available for self-employed people whose earnings have been hit by coronavirus.

Confirmation of England’s second lockdown on Saturday prompted Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme by one month.

On Monday he announced more support via the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

The SEISS provides grants to self-employed people whose businesses have been hit by the pandemic, in the same way the furlough scheme protected employed people whose work dried up.

Around 76,000 people in Northern Ireland applied under the first version of the grant, with around 66,000 registered for the second at the end of September.

But the Treasury scheme has come under fierce criticism for excluding thousands of people in the north, including the newly self-employed and sole traders.

Less than two weeks ago the Chancellor announced that the support available under the three-month grants would double from 20 per cent to 40 per cent of profits, up to a maximum of £3,750.

As the coronavirus situation has deteriorated, Boris Johnson's Government has been forced to announce a lockdown in England from November 5 to December 2.

With the furlough scheme, paying 80 per cent of employees' wages, extended until December, support for the self-employed has also been made more generous.

The portion of the grant for November will cover 80 per cent of profits, meaning the November-January payment will be at 55 per cent of profits, a maximum of £5,160.

The support is still below the first two tranches of the scheme, which were capped at £6,570 and £7,500.

The support will be available across the UK, even though the lockdown announced by the Prime Minister only applies in England.

Eligible people who are self-employed or members of partnerships must have had their business hit by reduced demand or be temporarily prevented from trading as a result of the pandemic.

The window for making claims has been brought forward from December 14 to November 30.

The Treasury estimates the November-January package will cost £4.5 billion, up £1.4bn from the 40 per cent scheme.

The Chancellor said the Government was responding to the "rapidly changing health picture" and the increased payment will help people "get through the months ahead".

Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, welcomed the move but said there were still "significant gaps in the scheme".

"Many small company directors continue to go without support, it's long past time to sort this problem," he said.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady said the 80 per cent rate "will only cover a few weeks of the grant, meaning many people could still face hardship" and "there are lots of self-employed workers who will not qualify for this support".

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