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Sun, 27 September 2020

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Government must U-turn over coronavirus support for excluded groups and the self-employed

Government must U-turn over coronavirus support for excluded groups and the self-employed

Many of these people who have been left behind are the entrepreneurs and the risk-takers we need to get our country back firing on all cylinders again, writes Tim Farron MP. | PA Images

3 min read

Through no fault of their own, an estimated 3 million people have had no proper financial support over the past six months. The government’s next U-turn must be to overturn this huge injustice.

This crisis has taken an enormous toll on our country. On top of the loss, the grief, the hardship and the misery, many people have felt left behind and ignored.

One such group is the estimated three million people who have fallen through the gaps of the government’s coronavirus support schemes.

Through no fault of their own they have found themselves with no proper financial support whatsoever over the past six months.

There are many people who fall under this category: people who became recently self-employed, freelance workers, directors of small limited companies who pay their wages through dividends, people who changed jobs before lockdown began and many, many more.

Many of these people have existed over the last six months on absolutely nothing, with a devastating impact on their personal debt, their mental health and even their physical health.

Back in March, they were promised by the Chancellor that they “have not been forgotten” and that they will “not be left behind”.

But fast forward several months later and they will have been as horrified as I was to see Rishi Sunak stand up in the House of Commons this week and tell the Labour MP Tracy Brabin that the reason that thousands of hard-working self-employed people have been excluded from support is that they are in “the top 5% of earners”.

Neither mind Operation Moonshot, Rishi Sunak and the rest of the government must be living on cloud cuckoo land if they actually think that the self-employed hairdressers, electricians and taxi-drivers who have contacted my office in desperation in this crisis are actually fat-cat millionaires, sitting by the pool sipping champagne. 

There is a great sense of frustration and almost embarrassment that after six months the government are still stubbornly refusing to support these people

All the excluded groups want is to be treated the same as everyone else and for this huge injustice to be overturned.

I would argue that not only is it the right thing to do by those people, but it also the right thing to do by our country.

Many of these people who have been left behind are the entrepreneurs and the risk-takers we need to get our country back firing on all cylinders again.

It would be an act of enormous economic self-harm if we were to just let them linger on Universal Credit, rather than helping to grow their businesses and in turn help more people get back into work.

Earlier this summer, my friend and Liberal Democrat colleague Jamie Stone set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gaps In Support – the largest ever APPG with a cross-party membership of well over 200 MPs.

In the group, which is comprised of MPs from every party in Westminster, there is a great sense of frustration and almost embarrassment that after six months the government are still stubbornly refusing to support these people.

However, that is matched and exceeded by our desire to get the justice that they deserve.

Time and time again throughout this crisis we’ve seen the government go ahead with ridiculous proposals, only to give in to public pressure and do a U-turn.

For the sake of the wellbeing and livelihoods of three million and our country’s economy, this simply must be the government’s next U-turn.

 

Tim Farron is the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for housing, communities and local government.

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