With England heading into a national month-long lockdown from early on Thursday (November 5), the government has scrambled to extend measures for workers.
As well as the furlough scheme for employees continuing this month, the UK-wide Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended.
In a statement in the House of Commons, Prime Minster Boris Johnson announced that for the month-long lockdown in November, the SEISS scheme is increasing funding from 40% to 80% of average trading profits.
The SEISS is calculated over three months so this increases the total grant from 40% to 55% of trading profits for November to January and the maximum grant increases to £5,160.
Horace Trubridge, MU general secretary, said: “We appreciate all the government has done to support our members through the furlough and self-employment income support schemes so far, but they must not abandon our world-class musicians who are the driving force behind the multi-billion pound UK music industry. This latest announcement clearly does not achieve parity with employed people on furlough, and we will lobby the Treasury on that point as well as continue to argue that the many musicians who have been ineligible for this scheme must now be included.
“We know from our research, that a third of musicians are considering abandoning the industry completely, due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Half of our members have already been forced to seek work outside of the industry, with seven in ten unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work. Once again, we strongly urge the government to recognise the unique situation that our members are in, and to provide sector specific financial support for musicians.”
The claims window for the SEISS grants will now be opening at the end of November rather than the middle of December as originally planned.
Chief executive of the ISM, Deborah Annetts, said: “We are pleased that the government is supporting the self-employed with 80% of trading profits for November, which increases the total grant to 55% of trading profits across the November to January period. This announcement, coming so soon after previous changes to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), follows the ISM’s tireless campaigning on this issue. This is a further acknowledgement from the government that its initial approach was insufficient and that more had to be done to support the self-employed, including the thousands of musicians who cannot work while performance venues remain closed.
“However, the increased rate of SEISS is only for the first month of the three-month grant period and three million self-employed workers continue to be excluded from receiving it at all. So maintaining a higher level of grant, expanding the eligibility criteria and developing a clear roadmap for the return of live performance are all now essential for preventing an exodus of highly skilled talent from our world-leading arts sector.”