Government thinks creative freelancers are 'all millionaires' says Tracy Brabin as she calls for support

A Yorkshire MP has claimed the Government thinks freelancers in creative industries are "all millionaires sipping pina coladas with our feet up" as she called for a cap on support funding to be raised.

Tracy Brabin

Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen and Shadow Minister for Creative Industries, has said that "tens of thousands are missing out" on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, a safety net that can be used by the screen industry's workforce.

Challenging the Chancellor Rushi Sunak in a Parliamentary debate this week, Ms Brabin said: "Despite him saying that the self-employment scheme is one of the most generous in the world, tens of thousands are still missing out—new starters, pay-as-you-earn freelancers, those paid through dividends and those earning over £50,000.

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Join our new coronavirus Facebook group for the latest confirmed news and advice as soon as we get it"I have three simple questions for the Chancellor. Will the self-employed income support scheme be extended in line with the job retention scheme? Are there plans to lift the cap on profits? And will he please look again at supporting new starters?

Mr Sunak replied that he did "not believe that removing the cap would be the right or socially just thing to do. The average income of those above the cap is £200,000, and 95 per cent of those who are self-employed fall underneath the cap."

Ms Brabin afterwards told The Yorkshire Post that Mr Sunak's response that the average income about the cap being £200,000 "just isn't true" and gave an example of a constituent who earned £51,000 but has children to provide for and was without pay for the foreseeable future.

She said there was a misconception that self-employed people and freelancers - which Ms Brabin was during her acting career - are taking lots of profit and "we're all millionaires sipping pina coladas with our feet up".

But many will need to fund expensive equipment, studio space and workers, she said.

"On the page and in reality are different things all together," she added. "I spoke to a single mum with three kids who earns £51,000, she's made nothing for months and stands to make nothing for a year.

"I think it's very difficult for people in ordinary jobs to understand the life of freelancers. We're always job hunting and the stress of that and also the lack of any support when it comes to sick pay... You sacrifice all of that for the flexibility of being self-employed.

"The nuances of the very work that we do has meant that many people are slipping through the net."

She also believes that the economic benefits of creative industries should have greater place in policy, and thinks that a lack of support for them "is very much an English problem", whereas Wales, Scotland and some European countries put culture centre stage.

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Creative Industries, said: “The government has provided an unprecedented package of financial support during these challenging times, including the Bounce Back Loans scheme and the self-employed income support scheme, which has been a safety net for many working in film and TV.”

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport added that the Government has been working closely with broadcasters and representatives from the wider film and TV industry, including the BFI Screen Sector Task Force, in recent weeks to understand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the sector and has provided a substantial financial package of support.

This includes the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self Employment Income Support Scheme, cash grants and loans.

As part of a £330 billion support package, the Chancellor announced a twelve month business rates holiday for leisure businesses including cinemas, said the department.

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