Thousands of sole traders need immediate help to survive the coronavirus crisis as many are seeing their livelihoods “vanish”, the Government is being warned.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said ministers must now ramp up support for the self-employed, following last week’s announcement of wages support for workers.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said: “Chambers across the UK are hearing from thousands of sole traders, for whom last week’s measures offer little reassurance.
“While we understand the complexity involved, there are five million self-employed people who need help similar in scale and scope to that put in place for larger firms in recent days.
“We will work closely with ministers to find a way to deliver support to self-employed people and to ensure that the measures announced for larger businesses make it through quickly to the front line.”
The BCC warned that many sole traders were seeing their livelihoods “vanish in the blink of an eye”.
Pamela Morton, freelance national organiser of the National Union of Journalists, said: “Freelancers must not be forgotten in the Government’s efforts to protect working people.
“Already our members are seeing work dry up and face suffering real hardship.
“The Chancellor must step up with a meaningful package that will allow our members to be able to work or to fund them through a time when they have no work.
“We are working flat-out to secure a proper deal for our members in negotiations with ministers and officials.”
Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said: “Over the weekend we have heard from thousands of self-employed people – including hairdressers, bakers, childcare providers, taxi drivers and cafe owners – many frightened and in despair at seeing their business fall away, and staring at the prospect of little or no financial support.
“While it is welcome that the Government has pledged to cover 80% of the wages of impacted employees, five million self-employed strivers have until now only been offered, at best, access to £94 a week. In desperation, many have attempted to apply for Universal Credit after Friday and have been turned down.
“These are people who have worked hard to build up their businesses, paid their taxes and helped the economy to grow. They now face a crunch point, with many unable to operate – leaving them without money, but with bills still stacking up.
“We have been strongly urging the Government not to allow the self-employed to be left high and dry, and it is welcome to hear that the Prime Minister is listening and offering new hope.”