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Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 26 January 2021

What steps his Department is taking to help ensure that the self-employment income support scheme equitably supports people whose tax payments have been affected by maternity or paternity leave. (911356)

The self-employment income support scheme is one of the most generous in the world and has received claims from almost 2.7 million people so far, totalling more than £18.5 billion. The amount of the scheme grant is determined based on the applicant’s average profits from self-employment in the previous three tax years, as reported through their tax returns. By calculating the grant on an average of three years of profits, the scheme supports people who saw a dip in profits for any reason, including pregnancy.

The Chancellor likes to claim that the UK offers one of the most generous support schemes for self-employed people in the world, but self-employed women who have taken maternity leave in the past few years are not supported generously at all—in fact, they have received a lot less financial support than their peers who have not taken maternity leave. The charity Pregnant Then Screwed reported that around 75,000 self-employed women have been subject to— [Inaudible.]

If I may just say, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. We are not talking about a claim that is not validated by third parties; it is understood internationally that the scheme is one of the most generous in the world. He will be aware that the issue is subject to legal challenge, which limits what I can say, but I can tell him that the Government are well aware that some self-employed people found that their eligibility for the scheme was affected if they had taken time out of their trade in 2018-19, which is why, in June last year, the scheme’s eligibility criteria were revised to ensure that people in that situation were able to claim self-employment income support.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK Government have consistently failed to prioritise support for women on maternity leave. Despite the issue being raised by me and a host of others repeatedly in this House, the UK Government were taken to judicial review last week by Joeli Brearley and the tireless campaigners at Pregnant Then Screwed. Do the UK Government now accept that it is not a sabbatical, sick leave or a holiday—it is maternity leave? Will they end their discrimination against 75,000 self-employed mothers?

I am not sure whether the sound system was working but, as the hon. Lady will know from my previous remarks, the issue is subject to legal challenge so I cannot discuss it. I will say, though, that I met maternity groups as part of the excluded in early December, and we have taken steps to remedy the situation, where we have been able to do so, in relation to those who took time out in the year 2018-19.