The Yorkshire businesspeople part of The Excluded after being left out of Government support during the pandemic

It takes courage to leave the security of a steady job and set up your own business at the best of times.

Deb Howe, who has been excluded from Government support during the covid pandemic

But when Deb Howe left her part-time role as a teacher in 2018 to focus on her new business, Eggucation, she believed her calculated gamble would pay off.

"I run an ethical school hatching service,'' Ms Howe, from Sheffield, said. "I keep rare native breeds and the eggs from these go into schools. The children learn about life cycles, nature, food, farming, and conservation.

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"I collect all the chicks and grow them on my smallholding. My profits from this are small, the turnover is used to keep the animals alive.”

Photographer Paul White from Womersley near Pontefract who has been excluded from Government support during the covid pandemic

Then the pandemic struck and she was forced to stay at home. She had hoped that, in common with many other enterprises, she would qualify for government support.

She was to be left disappointed, as she said she lost out due to the “50-50 rule”.

Many people who start out in self-employment do so gradually and will often continue PAYE work to minimise risk.

However, they cannot claim from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) based on their income from self-employment if this forms less than 50 per cent of their total income.

Nicola Cromwell from Burley in Wharfedale, who is a member of the Denied Furlough group which Is an umbrella group under Excluded UK

Ms Howe said: “I was excluded under the 50-50 rule because in 2018 I still had teaching income and very little income from my business. I have been entirely self employed since August 2018.

“I couldn't get small business rate relief because I work from home. I did manage to get an additional restrictions grant (ARG) from Barnsley Council. The ARG grant is money given to the council to distribute under the discretionary scheme.”

She said councils had taken a varied approach as to who would qualify for ARG and by how much.

She added: “There are huge discrepancies across the UK. I have borrowed from friends, taken out a Business Bounce Back loan and made all the outgoings reductions possible like my mortgage.

"I lost £25,000 last season. Most of my work takes place between February and June in schools because there are few events over the summer. This latest lockdown has cost me about £20,000 so far in lost bookings.”

Another person who describes himself as “excluded and bitter” is Paul White from Womersley, a photographer who trades as a limited company. His work was badly affected by the pandemic.

He said: "As a director, I have had no support apart from a small amount of furlough based on my £700 per month salary. This month I will get about £180 as I have been working. I am 66 in May, and I have spent the last five years clearing off debt so we can live a simple life as my career winds down.

"When Covid hit, we had no income for two months, and I had no choice but to keep working even though I have a reduced immune system and asthma. Luckily, I have dodged Covid, but it has been incredibly stressful.

"Financially my income halved, and we have burnt through £10,000 of savings, and having cleared off debt, I now have a new £15,000 debt to the Government in a Bounce Back Loan, the only help I could get.

"I see people on furlough putting money away as they have a simpler cheaper lifestyle and we are working out how to fund our debt in years ahead. Am I bitter? Damn right I am. All I wanted was to be treated the same as other self employed, who get a payment based on three years averaged profits.

"The Chancellor keeps saying working out income from dividends is too complicated, which is balderdash. My accounts are in the public domain, and clearly state my dividend income, alternatively a payment could have been based on the company's profit.

“Furthermore, HMRC has real time access to my accounts software for VAT purposes."

Nicola Cromwell, who lives near Ilkley, was so angry about her plight after being denied furlough that she decided to set up a campaigning group.

She said: "I had worked for a national charity for six years; the last year of that had been on a zero hour contract. I was still working well over full time hours until March when my work ceased overnight and so did my wage. I was paid a minimal wage at the end of March (about £300).

"I contacted my employer who said due to the services being publicly funded I was not entitled to furlough. I told them this was incorrect, but they still refused."

Alongside her fellow campaigner Alice Britton, Ms Cromwell has started the Denied Furlough group which is an umbrella organisation under Excluded UK.

"We are campaigning for a scheme to be set up for those who were employed to be able to go to HMRC and claim 80 per cent of lost earnings directly through them,'' she said.

"It is a relatively easy thing to set up as HMRC will have all income details and will have access to see if benefits have been claimed and paid out.

"As the Chancellor has pointed out, it was a scheme that the employer did not have to commit to, so going directly to employers or ex-employers we feel is inappropriate in this case. The Government did have an obligation to not force us into poverty, which they have done."

Other members of ExcludedUK include James McKay, who is a zoologist based near Sheffield.

He said he had received no support since his last payday on March 6 last year.

Mr McKay said he was excluded because of the “50 per cent rule”, which states “that if more than 50 per cent of profits come from other than the business, you get nothing”.

He added: “Because I have invested in lots of new equipment for the business, and have large overheads, especially caring for the animals - I have a standing order for £600 per month simply for the electricity for the animals - 51 per cent of my profits, not turnover, come from my pension. No such rule exists for PAYE workers."

Mr McKay said he had received "zero government support to-date".

He added: "I have worked and paid my taxes for over 52 years, I am currently £40,000 in debt and living on credit cards. Gifts from family and friends, such as food, money, clothing, keep us going.

"I am fundraising to care for my animals - if I cannot get enough money to properly care for them, I will have to consider euthanizing the animals."

After 21 years in the furniture trade, Ian Priestley, from Durkar, near Wakefield, decided to become a freelance salesman in 2019 so he could represent more than one business and broaden his product offering.

He said: "Despite a great start after set-up, my income since March 2020 has been sporadic to say the least – I rely solely on commissions, and therefore need the shops to be open for people to buy and for me to earn.

“My wife has continued to work her role with additional hours, and this single income just about covers the essential fixed bills. So for all the other living variables we have relied on family savings, taking equity out of our property - and most disheartening of all, ‘going without’ through no fault of our own.

“We are ineligible for UC (Universal Credit) and having to home-school our two young children has prevented me from finding alternative sources of employment.

“We have been left without any government support since the start of the pandemic despite following all guidance and advice, and being a big believer in fairness and equality, this has hit me quite hard.

Mr Priestley added: “ I was encouraged at a young age to split earnings into three; use a third for bills, use a third as spending money, and use a third to build a rainy day saving pot.

“I’ve broadly done this for 20 years and we’ve managed to make a nice nest egg that is often used for home improvements and a general family fund. But never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a rainy day could last for over 12 months and we’d be expected to use this fund as our own family welfare system due to not working through no fault of my own.”