‘Excluded’ workers left devastated by lack of support in Rishi Sunak statement

Workers excluded from the Government’s coronavirus support have expressed anger at Rishi Sunak’s failure to help them.

Campaigners believe as many as three million freelance and self-employed workers have been unable to claim on the Government’s support schemes due to various restrictions.

Dave Leyland, a business development manager in the architectural facade industry, said he and his family had been “absolutely destroyed by the way we are being treated”.

The 59-year-old from Denton, Greater Manchester, told the PA news agency he was ineligible either for the furlough scheme or the Self Employment Income Support Scheme due to recent changes in his work situation, and was unable to even claim universal credit as his wife receives the state pension.

“My confidence levels right now are extremely shot to pieces,” said Mr Leyland, who had until recently been working for 43 years.

Mr Leyland said he had voted Conservative all his life but would never do so again after his struggles over the past few months.

“This latest statement is yet another kick in the teeth by this Government to the three million excluded, abandoned tax-paying people.”

Ceramicist and artist Lucy Baxendale, 31, said her income had all but disappeared as a result of Covid-19, but had also found herself ineligible for the support because she had earned more through employment than she did self-employed in 2019.

“I genuinely have no idea how I’m going to make it through the rest of the year,” she told PA.

Ms Baxendale, from Hereford, said she also has endometriosis, adding that “the stress of everything has made my pain so much worse and more constant”.

Lucy Baxendale, 31, says the stress has exacerbated her illness (Lucy Baxendale/PA)

“I had to ring my GP a couple of weeks ago for stronger pain relief, and last week I broke down in a Zoom meeting which I’m still really embarrassed about.”

She added that she may soon have to face a choice of having surgery and losing out on future income, or living with the pain.

“The thought of that long-term is unbearable,” she added.

Questioned about the millions who have been without incomes in similar circumstances, Mr Sunak told the Commons: “I have acknowledged that we haven’t been able to help everyone in the exact way they would like.

“But because of the strengthening we’ve put in place of our welfare system and our universal loans schemes, everyone has been able to access some form of support.”

The comment angered many of the excluded workers, who say they have been unable to access enough to cover costs like rent and food.

Bill, an emergency services worker, said he and his pregnant wife had to rely on his income alone after the contractor she worked for told her she couldn’t work from home. Further complications meant she was unable to claim on the Government’s support scheme.

“My wife pays the same tax as other UK employees, she’s lived and worked in Scotland her whole life and has been abandoned by the Government.

“There’s no means test for furlough – the Government literally paid it to millionaires but not to my wife.

“Our plans to buy a new house are in tatters because our ability to get a mortgage has been halved.”

Bill, who asked for his full name not to be included for fear of losing his own job, added: “I’m genuinely glad so many have received support but so many have also been left behind.

“I know that my wife and I will be paying back this scheme for years through increased taxes and in my case lower public sector wages whilst we have not benefited from it. That hardly seems fair.”

Ms Baxendale added: “Many of us have to work a mixture of PAYE and SE, and there is no legal commitment from organisations to honour freelance contracts if something like this happens.”

“The Government seems to view universal credit as support, but that just shows how out of touch they are with living costs. No wonder so many people are using food banks.”

Campaign group ExcludedUK said: “Whilst we appreciate the importance of the discussions about opening up the economy and the future economic recovery, those excluded have had no meaningful support for well over 100 days.

“With little to no income during this time and loaded with debt, amid so much uncertainty in the coming weeks and months to come, those excluded cannot look forward to the future with any hope.”

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