SEISS ‘mistake’ critiqued for leaving millions excluded from support

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SEISS, formally known as the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, has been designed to support self-employed people whose businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Financial help was first extended by the government in March, in the form of two consecutive grants worth a proportion of trading profits. The government then announced the scheme was to be extended with an additional two grants covering November 2020 to April 2021. 

However, due to eligibility criteria, many people have found themselves excluded from financial support.

The issue was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who criticised Mr Johnson’s approach to the issue.

Sir Keir commented: “The trouble is that the British people are paying the price for the mistakes of the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

“If they had extended furlough sooner, jobs would have been saved.

“Let me deal with another mistake: the Chancellor has repeatedly failed to close gaps in support for the self-employed, with millions affected by this. 

“It’s bad enough to have made that mistake in March, but seven months on, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says the scheme is, ‘wasteful and badly targeted for the self employed. Many self-employed continue to be left out in the cold.’

“After seven months and so many warnings, why are the Chancellor and Prime Minister still failing our self-employed?”

A report from the IFS has indicated concern about the accessibility of the SEISS scheme.

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The organisation estimated 18 percent of Britons for whom self-employed makes up at least half their income are ineligible for this form of financial support. 

In addition, the report suggested 38 percent of individuals with any self-employed income are ineligible. 

However, the Prime Minister responded by insisting significant support had been extended to those who need help most in this difficult time.

He said: “Unquestionably this pandemic has been hard on the people of the country and unquestionably there are people who have suffered throughout the pandemic and livelihoods have suffered.

“But we have done everything that we possibly can to help. As for the self-employed 2.6 million of them have received support. 

“We have also uprated Universal Credit and that will continue until next year.”

For the third SEISS grant, there are certain eligibility criteria self-employed people will need to bear in mind.

A person must have been previously eligible for the first and second grant, although it is not necessary for them to have claimed either.

They are also required to state that they continue to trade and either:

  • are actively trading at present, but have been impacted by reduced demand due to COVID-19
  • were trading previously, but have been temporarily unable to do so due to COVID-19

However, those who have been excluded from the grants in the past, there has been dissatisfaction.

ExcludedUK, a not-for-profit organisation focused on those excluded by support measures, recently commented on the government’s move to provide more support to Britons.

The group said: “ExcludedUK acknowledges the generosity extended by the Chancellor.

“However, it once again expresses its extreme disappointment at the statement, given the Chancellor’s continued refusal to remotely acknowledge the plight of the three million UK taxpayers excluded from the government COVID-19 financial schemes.

“The impact of these exclusions on those affected can no longer be dismissed by the government with inherently profound consequences for the three million affected, their families and households, and the wider inevitable economic damage caused by the Chancellor’s continued refusal to recognise this deeply detriment to 10 percent of the UK workforce.”

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