Rishi Sunak is to reveal help for the self-employed today

Rishi Sunak is to reveal help for the self-employed TODAY… after vowing to plough hundreds of billions of pounds into support package

  • ‘Huge’ package to support the self-employed will be unveiled today (Thursday)
  • ‘Bespoke’ measures will include direct income via non-repayable grants  
  • PM says package will ‘ensure everybody gets the support they need’ 

 A ‘huge’ package of potentially hundreds of billions of pounds of support for the self-employed will be unveiled today after ministers came under pressure from MPs. 

Boris Johnson said that while the Government was ‘putting our arms around’ every worker, he could not guarantee that the self-employed would not face ‘any kind of hardship at all’. 

But the Prime Minister said he wanted to get ‘parity of support’ so the self-employed could have similar levels of protection to workers with jobs. 

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is expected to set out the package supporting self-employed workers at a press conference on Thursday

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is expected to set out the package supporting self-employed workers at a press conference on Thursday 

He told the Commons yesterday: ‘There are particular difficulties with those who are not on PAYE schemes… I think the whole House understands. We are bringing forward a package to ensure that everybody gets the support that they need.’ 

Asked what this would involve, he said: ‘I cannot, in all candour, promise the House that we will be able to get through this crisis without any kind of hardship at all.’ 

But he added: ‘We will do whatever we can to support the self-employed, just as we are putting our arms around every single employed person in this country.’ 

Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a plan that would see the state pay up to 80 per cent of the wages of employees if firms agree to keep them on. 

But there are, as yet, no measures for the estimated five million self-employed people, who currently have to rely on welfare payments of around £94 a week. 

Mr Sunak is expected to unveil a ‘huge’ scheme to help subsidise the incomes of self-employed people whose work has evaporated because of the coronavirus, Government sources said. 

He is likely to set out the package at a press conference today. 

It will feature a ‘bespoke’ mix of measures but will include an element of direct income subsidy in the form of non-repayable grants. 

Sources acknowledge that it ‘won’t be direct parity in terms of maths but it will be parity in terms of fairness’. 

This is partly due to the range of workers in the self-employed bracket. While many have lost their income, others have more work. 

Many earn low wages in the hospitality and leisure sectors, but corporate lawyers and barristers on six-figure salaries are also self-employed. 

Government sources said that in addition they did not want the taxpayer to have to support the incomes of people who have other jobs. 

One source said: ‘With the employee scheme, people are either furloughed or they are not. ‘With the self-employed it’s different – work may have dried up right now but that might change, and this [lockdown] could go on for months.’ 

The sums involved will be ‘huge’ because of the scale of the problem and will run to certainly tens of billions, possibly hundreds, according to the source. 

Mr Sunak has consulted several organisations representing the self-employed over the measures. 

A spokesman for one of them, the association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, said: ‘We’re quite optimistic. ‘We’ve been calling for a fund to guarantee the income of most self-employed people who are going to lose out in this crisis. 

‘We’re calling for 80 per cent of the wages of the self-employed, the same as employees, to be protected.’ At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, MPs from all parties lined up to ask what was being done to help the self-employed. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘The self-employed are having to choose whether they go to work or stay at home or face losing their entire livelihood, relying instead on an overstretched welfare system which could pay as little as £94 per week.’ 

Asked yesterday why the package was taking so long to arrive, Mr Johnson said: ‘We have increased universal credit by £1,000 a year. 

‘We have deferred income tax self-assessments for the self-employed until July, and are deferring VAT until the next quarter. There is also access to Government-financed loans. 

‘But there are particular complexities of the self-employed that do need to be addressed; they are not all in the same position.’ 

London mayor Sadiq Khan has said the lack of support for the self-employed has contributed to the numbers travelling into the capital for work despite the lockdown. 

The Resolution Foundation thinktank has estimated that one in three people in self-employment – 1.7million workers – are at risk of losing their income.

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