On 26 March 2020, the UK Government announced the COVID-19 Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
Freelancers play a vital role in the Welsh creative economy – we calculate that there are 40,000 freelancers working in the Welsh creative industries. How have they been impacted by COVID-19? How will this scheme help?
Creative Cardiff, in conjunction with Cardiff University’s Creative Economy Unit, conducted an online survey to address these questions. In three days, 237 freelancers from across the creative industries and from across Wales responded to the survey. Here are some of the findings:
When asked how their self-employed work has been impacted by COVID-19, 60% of respondents said it had dried up completely.
My work has disappeared overnight as a result of COVID-19, and I can't see a time any time soon where normal service will resume.
When asked about eligibility, 18% reported that they are not covered by the scheme as they are registered as a Limited Company while 35% are not exempt from trading because of COVID-19 and many others faced eligibility problems because they had recently embarked on a freelance career.
One respondent said: "I only started freelancing recently so although I've been doing this for a year, I fall outside the criteria but have no way of making the income I would have. The scheme doesn't seem to apply to me at all."
More than a third strongly disagreed that the compensation proposed in the scheme is enough to cover their loses through COVID-19, with one response being: "As a freelancer, I spend most of my small profit on buying equipment to enable me to work. As such my 'profit' is small. It would be fairer to base this on turnover."
Around two thirds of those who responded to the survey agreed that a delay in payment from this scheme would cause them significant financial difficulty.
Waiting two months for money that I might not get is not realistic. With rent, bills and food to pay for I feel that this will not help as I'm going to have to go look for work which will put me in the middle of the virus with a possibility of getting ill and passing it onto many more. We need more help, now.
Professor Justin Lewis, one of the authors of the study alongside Dr Marlen Komorowski, said: "A breakdown in the freelance workforce will have multiplier effects across creative sectors. The are embedded in supply chains - notably in film and TV production - which may collapse if the freelance population is reduced.
"In this context, the Government's COVID-19 Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is welcome support for a sector that relies heavily on freelancers. However, many creative freelancers do not qualify for the scheme and for those who are eligible, the scheme falls far short of the compensation the Government is providing for furloughed employees."
Our survey points to ways in which the identified inequities might be addressed - both by the UK and Welsh Governments:
- Find ways to factor in the mix of past PAYE work and freelance income in assessing average income, as well as the time it takes to build up a freelance business;
- Use metrics that include the income dividends of freelancers creatives who are Limited Companies;
- Use metrics that include those who have embarked more recently on a freelance career.
- Consider initial upfront payments to help cover time caused by the delay in assessment.
The full report is available for download below.
If you are self-employed and looking for further advice you may wish to take a look at: