The government announced on Monday that to help the self-employed withstand the impact of the second wave, from November there will be two consecutive three-month extensions to existing grants.
The extension to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), however, comes amid criticism from the business sector that the scheme itself is too limited in who it supports.
The National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Mike Cherry said though the government had responded to calls for more support, many self-employed people are still not covered by the scheme.
“This is a five-million strong community that drives our economy forward, but the Government has insisted that large swathes of it do not warrant any help where income is concerned,” he said in a statement.
“We have sadly already seen 250,000 self-employed people stop working and become economically inactive, a figure which is set to continue rising,” he added.
He called for those who had applied unsuccessfully for emergency loans under existing measures to be allowed to re-apply and for lenders to also accept new applicants.
Otherwise, he said, “the impact of the extension will be minimal.”
Meanwhile, Derek Cribb, CEO of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), said in a statement that though the extension was welcome the SEISS itself left “devastating gaps.”
He accused the government of “wilfully ignoring a third of the self-employed.”
“The first lockdown drastically undermined self-employed incomes, and the gaps in government support led to the biggest drop in self-employed numbers on record,” he said.
He added that unless the government “wakes up” and supports “all” of the self-employed the impending second lockdown will “hollow out swathes of this vital sector.”
The criticism comes following Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling Parliament on Monday that he was “truly sorry for the anguish” businesses that had just “got back on their feet” would suffer due to new national restrictions set to start on Thursday.
“The Government will continue to do everything possible to support jobs and livelihoods in the next four weeks as we have throughout,” he said.
“We’ve already paid out £13.7 billion [$17.7 billion] to help the self-employed and I can announce today that for November we will double our support from 40 to 80 percent of trading profits,” he added.
The government said that the November enhancement for the self-employed paralleled the extended support to employees under the furlough scheme for the same month.
The two three-month grants for the self-employed will be extended from 40 percent to 55 percent of trading profits and be capped at a total of £5,160 ($6,700), it said.