The exclusion of as many as 3 million self-employed people from any form of support over the past six months has been one of the most shameful aspects of the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
There is a long list of those who are left out of any support, but they include those who take some of their salary in dividends, PAYE freelancers and people who have not been self-employed for long enough to qualify.
I raised this in the House of Commons this week, directly challenging the minister about the injustice and arbitrariness of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The minister, Steven Barclay, said the Government was concerned about fraud, without providing any evidence that this is a particular risk over the self-employed.
Even worse, he said he wouldn’t even meet with cross-party MPs to discuss this.
The situation of the self-employed, many of them small business owners like hairdressers, plumbers, shop owners, is becoming more and more desperate. I regularly hear heart-breaking stories of how small businesses, which people have put their passion and savings into, are now falling apart because of Covid – and the Government is just standing by and letting it happen.
I’ve secured a back bench debate in the House of Commons next week on this issue. With more than 200 MPs from across the House in the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Excluded, I’m sure there will be plenty of questions for ministers to answer.