Freelancers: what support is available?
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Freelancers: what support is available?

You already know how it’s looking: much of the film and TV industry has stopped. Across the industry thousands of freelancers have seen shifts cancelled, with uncertainty around when we will get back to normality.

The Covid-19 outbreak is more than a health crisis: its economic impact is severe.

A recent Bectu survey suggested that 71 per cent of UK broadcast freelancers – about 35,000 people – are afraid they will struggle to survive financially as a result of the outbreak.

With this all in mind we wanted to summarise some of the support that may be available to you if you have been, or are concerned that you might be, impacted.

Help from the government

Some support relevant to the UK’s 50,000 broadcast freelancers was recently outlined in the Budget:

  • ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be payable for people directly affected by Covid-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day
  • People will be able to claim universal credit and access advance payments where they are directly affected by Covid-19 (or self-isolating), without having to attend a jobcentre
“Self-employed claimants on universal credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.” – HMRC
  • ‘Time to Pay’ arrangements – for businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax: a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back
  • An HMRC helpline has been launched to help people concerned about paying tax due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The number is 0800 0159 559, and it’s open Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm, and Saturday from 8am to 4pm. The helpline won’t be available on Bank Holidays

Following the Budget, the government announced that the IR35 tax reforms, which were due to come into effect next month, have been deferred until April 2021.

Freelancers’ petition

Organisations including Pact, the UK producers’ body, and the IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) have called for greater government support for freelancers and the self-employed.

Possible measures could include the creation of a temporary income protection fund, for which the IPSE has launched a petition.

Mental health & wellbeing

Aside from the financial impact of the coronavirus, the disruption to our lives over the coming weeks and months is likely to mean levels of stress and anxiety for all of us will rise.

For anyone who feels they may be impacted in this way, help is available:

  • The charity Mind has posted a useful guide on looking after your mental health during infectious outbreaks

Free, remote training

Many of us will be finding that we now have more free time available than we were expecting. Donna Taberer, who is Head of Talent at BBC, Content, has tweeted about free training for TV freelancers – something that would be a constructive use of the free time: