Ahead of the Budget, Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on behalf of self-employed constituents who have been excluded from income support for a year.
Since the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was launched, Preet and Labour have repeatedly called on the Government to tackle the holes in the scheme, which has seen thousands excluded across Edgbaston. Thus far the Chancellor has tried to justify not covering those without a 2019-20 tax return as a measure ‘to minimise fraud’.
Full letter text:
Ahead of the Budget this week, I would like to reiterate my concerns regarding self-employed people who are still falling through the gaps for income support during the pandemic, a year on.
I have been contacted by a constituent who has been self-employed for 17 months running her own beauty business. Prior to the pandemic, her business was thriving, supporting herself and her two children. Yet for almost a year now, her business has been thrown in and out of varying degrees of restrictions, with virtually no Government help.
Due to the recency with which she set up as sole trader, she was unable to access to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme as she had only been trading for eight months.
After this, she then contacted the local authority where her business is based to see if she was eligible for the Local Restrictions Support Grant, but was also declined this as she doesn’t pay business rates on the room she rents to work.
My constituent then decided to look into the possibility of applying for a Bounce Back Loan, but as she didn't previously have an account with any of the lenders, she was declined as they had stopped taking on any new clients.
She is now in sole receipt of Universal Credit to help her raise her children and try to keep the dream of her business alive. Yet having seen her savings slowly dwindle through this crisis due to the inadequacy of support, she has said that she doubts if will be able to afford to reopen her business when restrictions for beauty businesses are lifted on 12thApril.
This month will mark a year since you announced at the despatch box that you would do “whatever it takes” to support the economy, yet my constituent’s experience tells a very different story. According to HMRC data, only 3,300 self-employed people in my constituency have been assessed as potentially eligible for the SEISS scheme, out of an estimated self-employed population of 9,000. This suggests that my constituent is one of 5,700 who have been excluded from support in Birmingham, Edgbaston, a shocking 63% of the total self-employed population.
I urge you to put this right by expanding support for self-employed people at the Budget this week. Now the deadline for 2019/20 self-assessment tax returns has passed, there is no longer an excuse for continuing to exclude newly self-employed people from support due to the risk of fraud.
I look forward to your response to this glaring injustice at the despatch box this week.
Preet Kaur Gill
Member of Parliament for Birmingham, Edgbaston