Following new guidance on applying for grants and loans through the Cultural Recovery Fund published by Arts Council England (ACE) on 29 July, the ISM has written to ACE (05 August) requesting further information on financial support available to freelancers to overcome the challenges of COVID-19.
The ISM has also has requested that ACE calls upon the Treasury to extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (and expand its coverage) until at least the end of the year, to support freelance musicians and music professionals who will be unable to earn an income through live performance and who will also be without government support.
Read the full letter to Arts Council England Chief Executive, Darren Henley
RE: Support for freelancers in the cultural sector
I am writing on behalf of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and the thousands of music professionals we represent, to request further information on the government funding that will be available for freelance workers in the cultural sector to overcome the challenges of COVID-19. In addition, I am making a strong and urgent plea for Arts Council England (ACE) to lobby the Treasury to extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) until at least the end of this year. If targeted action is not taken to support freelancers over the coming months there will be an exodus of talent from the cultural sector, which would be all our loss.
We appreciate the support ACE has provided for the creative community and welcome the new guidance on applying for grants and loans through the Cultural Recovery Fund released by ACE on 29 July. These funds will enable many venues and organisations to sustain themselves through these extremely challenging times, preventing many closures and the loss of jobs, and protecting much of our country’s rich cultural offering.
However, we were extremely disappointed to find no reference to support for freelancers within the guidance. We do note the reference on the ACE website to the difficulties faced by freelancers and the promise of investment of £2 million to support these workers. We would therefore like to know how this £2 million will be administered, when it will be accessible, and how the size of this specific fund was calculated.
Considering the scale of the challenges facing the cultural sector, and the size of the freelance workforce (approximately a third of all workers in this sector, and the majority within the music sector), £2 million will unfortunately do almost nothing to stave off the professional and financial crises these hundreds of thousands of workers are now facing.
This is especially concerning when we consider that many of the venues and organisations that receive financial support through the Cultural Recovery Fund are likely to remain closed or at best partially open until next year. This means that freelancers, such as musicians and other live performers, will have extremely limited work opportunities and will not be able to access an income through live performance.
In effect, money from the Cultural Recovery Fund will not trickle down to freelancers as it is supposedly intended to. This is doubly worrying when the final payment via the SEISS only covers lost income until the end of August, leaving many musicians and freelancers facing a cliff edge in the coming months. They will be without work, and without government support.
The ISM believes the only way to avoid this disastrous situation and the exodus of talent it would lead to is to extend the SEISS until at least the end the year (and expand its coverage), to support the freelance community while the creative sector slowly finds its feet. We therefore call on ACE to take up this request with the Treasury, as we believe this course of action is the best one for the sector as a whole, which rests on the back of the freelance community.