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Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 26 January 2021

What fiscal steps he is taking to support self-employed people ineligible for the self-employment income support scheme. (911358)

The self-employment income support scheme was designed to target support at those who most need it while protecting the taxpayer against error, fraud and abuse. The Government recognise that some of the rules and criteria that have been vital to ensuring that the scheme worked for the vast majority have meant that, in some cases, people were not able to qualify. This is one reason why the Government put in place a much wider £280 billion support package, including increased levels of universal credit, bounce back loans, tax, deferrals, rental support, mortgage holidays, self-isolation support payments and other business support grants.

It is understandable that, as support schemes were constructed at short notice, there would be gaps in them. It is less understandable why, a year later, those gaps have not been better closed. Many of my constituents are among the millions who have been excluded from support schemes so far, so, as we approach that anniversary, what message does the Minister have for them?

The message would be that the Treasury is doing everything it can to protect jobs, families and livelihoods in the face of the worst pandemic crisis that we have experienced in recorded history. It is important to say that, in the case of this scheme, we have spent considerable time engaging with groups that have brought forward potential ways of addressing some of the gaps in support that may exist. As I mentioned, we have had meetings in December and evaluated suggestions all the way through last year, including a concrete suggestion in relation to the directors income support scheme, so we are heavily leaning into this issue.

I want to raise the case of my constituent, Teresa McGeough, who is a newly self-employed special educational needs expert. She has not been eligible for any financial assistance during the pandemic. Does the Minister think that the Government are doing enough to help people such as Theresa and others?

As I have said, the Government are doing everything they can and have been working round the clock for a year to address the full needs of the country across all the different aspect of our economy and society, including through support for the self-employed.

The self-employment income support scheme’s third grant closes this Friday. The crisis has not ended, but the Chancellor has not provided many details on the future of the scheme. Will the Minister explain why he thinks it is right that employees can be furloughed until 30 April but self-employed people have no clarity about the future of support beyond the end of this week?

I think that it is well-understood that the Chancellor will be setting out further plans in the March Budget. It is normal for this time of year for different decisions to be consolidated into that important fiscal event for well-known reasons.