COVID-19: Write to your MP about extending the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme until the end of the year
On Monday 6 July the government announced a £1.57 billion support package for the arts. Museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be able to apply for emergency grants and loans, helping staff that work there.
However, we are concerned that this package, and the Chancellor’s latest announcement on support for jobs to help the UK economy, offer no direct support for freelancers. The self-employed make up the majority of the near-200,000 strong workforce in the music sector, and once the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) ends in August, they will have access to no tailored government support. This is especially worrying as the government have yet to specify when a return to full or even partial live indoor performance will be possible.
We are therefore encouraging our members and supporters to write to their MPs, asking that they call on the Chancellor to extend the SEISS, and also to expand its coverage. We’ve drafted this template for you to use and we encourage you to add in any personal detail, if you can, of your experience as a self-employed musician or music professional and how you have coped financially since the outbreak.
Please keep sharing your concerns with us by emailing [email protected].
Name of local MP
Dear [Name of your local MP]
As one of your constituents, I am writing to ask you to call on the Chancellor to extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) until the end of the year. Government guidance currently prohibits musicians from performing indoors, and a return to full capacity indoor live performances is unlikely to happen until the end of the year at the very earliest. The SEISS ends in August musicians facing a cliff edge without work and without financial support.
Both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SEISS have been vital lifelines for many musicians and music businesses, and the £1.57 billion of government funding that was recently allocated to the arts will keep many organisations afloat. Museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be able to apply for emergency grants and loans, helping staff that work there, and giving many people an opportunity to continue to benefit from a rich cultural offering when doors reopen.
However, with funding going directly to venues or businesses/organisations, the government’s financial package will not provide support to freelancers like musicians. This is especially pressing when we consider that the self-employed make up the majority of the music sector’s 191,000-strong workforce, many of whom have not worked since the pandemic struck. As a reminder, the music industry in normal times is worth £5.2bn per annum.
Research from the Incorporated Society of Musicians shows that among those that managed to access the SEISS, half reported that the payment they received covered only 50 per cent or less of their usual income over a three month period; and two fifths reported that their payment was not sufficient to cover their living costs. Worryingly, 42 per cent anticipate that it will take 12 months plus for their income from self-employed work to return to pre-COVID levels.
If venues and organisations can stabilise themselves with the new funds, then their employees are more likely to hold onto their jobs. However, there will still be very little work for musicians. With no timelines accompanying the roadmap for a return to live performance, and with the likelihood of reduced capacity openings, many musicians will still be out of work after the SEISS has come to an end in August. Musicians are therefore facing a cliff edge of the government’s own making.
Though imperfect, the SEISS has proved a reliable and effective mechanism for distributing financial support to those that are eligible. I request that you call on the Chancellor to extend the SEISS until the end of the year. If this does not happen, then we risk losing many talented musicians who simply cannot continue in the profession because of financial hardship.
Alongside this, it is essential that this vital support is expanded to cover the many self-employed professionals who have slipped through the cracks and cannot access financial assistance from SEISS. The gaps in the SEISS are well-documented, so I am asking that you call on the Chancellor to put in place the changes recommended by organisations like the ISM and others, including lowering the threshold of income from 50 per cent to 25 per cent.
Please can I ask you to raise my concerns with the Chancellor and ask for the SEISS to be extended to the end of the year and for it to be reformed in line with the feedback from freelancers. The music sector provides so much cultural and economic value to our country and I hope that you as my local MP will do everything to help those who work in it.