It’s time to step in and support the thousands of hardworking people excluded from Government support
Chancellor Rishi Sunak must U-turn and provide support to those who have fallen through the gaps of his support schemes, says Jamie Stone MP | PA Images
The new APPG for the Excluded will meet for the first time tomorrow to help those left with no income in coronavirus, abandoned and ignored by the Government
This week marked 100 days since lockdown began. There were plenty of jokes and discussions about how our world has changed, but for millions it marked 100 days of struggling to get by. For some it marked 100 days of surviving on £0.
Over the past few months, I have been in touch with hundreds of people who are in this exact situation. Hairdressers, taxi drivers, freelance creative types – the list goes on. This seemingly eclectic bunch of hard-working people all have one thing in common: they all call the UK their home.
Like the rest of us, they pay their taxes to Her Majesty and work damn hard. They expected that when the rainy day came - and it has been raining for three months now – that the Government would be there to support them. And yet, the Tory Government in Westminster – the so-called party of business and entrepreneurship, the party of 'hard-working families' as David Cameron used to say – abandoned them.
None of these people are trying to swindle the Government. They're not being greedy. They are asking for the support they deserve
Some are being punished with no income for the high crime of changing their job in March. Others for taking a pension payment four years ago to start up their business. Some have been forced to sell their cars simply because their business always files PAYE in April, rather than before the arbitrary March 19th cut-off date from the chancellor.
None of these people are trying to swindle the Government. They're not being greedy. They are asking for the support they deserve.
Since discovering that they were to be excluded from government support schemes, this wide-ranging group of people been left to beg the Government for help. Unfortunately, their incredible coordinated efforts have fallen on the Treasury's deaf ears. While there have been some amazing groups founded on the back of this - groups like ExcludedUK, New Starter Justice and ForgottenLTD, I am sure we would all rather that they had never had cause to form in the first place.
I was the first MP to raise this issue in the House of Commons with an Early Day Motion calling on the chancellor to act. It was signed by members of all parties. I didn't stop there – I wrote to the chancellor (he still has not replied!). I lambasted the Treasury just 11 days ago on the issue, and it became clear from the debate that many MPs – from all parties – were in agreement that there was no reason to exclude people from support.
Not long after that debate, I did a 'Live Q&A' with one of the NGOs representing people who have been excluded from government support schemes. People were desperate to know what we could do next. They had done such a good job of coordinating themselves and that got me thinking, MPs should coordinate their own cross-party campaign. The best way to do this, I figured, was to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).
This group will be coming together on Tuesday to discuss potential solutions and challenges for helping those who have been excluded from Government support. Any MP from any party is more than welcome to join us - I would welcome anyone with open arms who wanted to help these good people. This is not a question of party politics, but of human decency.
If you could see my inbox right now, it would break your heart. From stories of people who taught in our schools for 25 years only to leave to start a business in March and lose everything, to tales of elderly dog walkers who depended on that income to get through.
If you have never emailed or tweeted your MP, please do so today and ask them to join my APPG. When it comes down to it, it could easily have been you who was arbitrarily excluded from government help. I have created guides on what you could say to your MP, which you can get on my twitter – otherwise do feel free to drop me an email! We need as many MPs from different parts of the country, representing different parties, to help us force the chancellor into a U-turn.
Jamie Stone is Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross