Coronavirus: North Devon workers react to Government help for the self-employed

Self-employed workers get Government support. Picture: 10 Downing Street/Crown copyright/Pippa Fowle

Self-employed workers get Government support. Picture: 10 Downing Street/Crown copyright/Pippa Fowles/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Self-employed people across North Devon have been reacting to the Government’s £9billion support package for workers up and down the country.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaks during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COV

Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaks during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Picture: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the scheme, which would see self-employed people given a grant of up to £2,500 a month to help the cope with the effects of the pandemic, in a press conference on Thursday (March 26)

Mr Sunak said the scheme will be open for at least three months and will cover 80 per cent of a self-employed person’s average monthly profits.

However, it may not be available until June and will only be available to those who have a tax return for 2019.

It means newly self-employed people will not be able to claim for relief under the scheme.

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Mr Sunak’s scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

To qualify, more than half of their income in these periods must come from self-employment.

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Mr Sunak said: “It targets support to those who need help most, offering the self-employed the same level of support as those in work.”

He said the measure covers 95 per cent of people who receive the majority of their income from self-employment.

Marc Churchill set up North Devon Party Celebrations in 2013, as well as being part of a family-run card business. He said he thought the announcement was a ‘fair deal’ overall.

He said: “It was always going to please some and not others. June isn’t ideal for many, but I think most can appreciate how complicated the process must have been for the government.

“For us personally, we can’t grumble, we have been protected as much as we could have expected in pretty uncertain times.

“I would urge shops and small businesses to read the government website as there is lots of advice on grants and loans if needed.”

Ilfracombe-based builder Richard Woolmer said he thought the announcement was a ‘generous package’ from the Government.

He said: “For me it’s fine as I’ve got three years of returns.

“It was getting to the point of thinking I’m good for the next month or so, but after that you wonder what’s going to happen. Fortunately my partner is still working full time from home, but I still have bills and overheads and running costs.

“At least the Government has done something. All in all it’s positive. You can always say they could have done more – but they could have done far worse.”

Sian Bartlett started teaching yoga self-employed two years ago. She said she had to turn to online classes after losing 20 hours of work in the space of 24 hours.

She said: “I’m really pleased to see they have offered some kind of funding and are able to help. I was really worried we weren’t going to get anything.

“I’m quite happy with what they have announced, but I don’t think there are any real winners in this situation. June definitely isn’t quick enough, but I’m glad there is something in place and we haven’t been left out in the cold.”

However, the announcement is not good news for those who have committed to self-employment in the last 12 months.

Chimney sweeper Tobias Kennedy-Matthews made the move to commit more time to his business at the start of the year by reducing his employed hours, but he has seen bookings disappear since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Although he is covered for his employed hours through the Government’s job retention scheme, the 30-year-old said he will only be getting 40 per cent of his usual income.

He said: “My partner has also dropped to three days a week employed in January, and her self-employed work is connected to the events industry, which went first.

“So we’re trying to pay bills and a mortgage on two-and-a-half days a week wage each. I have a van for my business which is on finance. And what’s worse is that I know there are people in much more dire situations than us.

“I know it’s complicated, but it’s basically shafted new businesses and developing businesses run by sole traders.”

Richie Norvill opened his Exposure Photography Gallery in Mill Street in Bideford last year, which means he doesn’t have any tax returns to submit.

He said: “Essentially I’ve closed the gallery for the time being and I’m having to take extra shifts where I work as a part time carer.

“If I get ill I will have to fall back on Universal Credit, but I can’t pay the rent on the shop unless it’s open!”

Business owners can find out more about what support is available to them by visiting

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