The government has been accused of "turning a deaf ear" to freelancers after it drastically cut the grants available to them in its new Job Support Scheme.
Self-employed workers already registered for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will receive 20% of average monthly trading profits for three months from November, capped at £1,875. A second three-month grant, applying from February, will be detailed "in due course," said chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The second of the existing grants, outlined in July, pays out up to 70% of profits, in a single instalment of up to £6,570 or £2,190 per month.
As currently, grants are set to be based on a self-employed individual's profits over the past three tax years.
The new grants have the same eligibility rules: you must have filed a tax return for 2018/19, earn more than 50% of your total income from self-employment and generate an average trading profit of no more than £50,000 per year.
The grants will continue to be allocated solely to those who have been "adversely affected" by coronavirus, such as staff illness, reduced trade or extra PPE costs.
Sunak said he had "sought parity between the employed and self-employed" but campaigners Excluded UK and Bectu and MPs including former Green party leader Caroline Lucas and shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens argue that the new measures still leave freelance workers out in the cold.
"We need the Government to think again on support for the self-employed," said Stevens. "More than three million have fallen through the cracks with many in film, tv, theatre and events."
After the furloughing scheme closes, staff working a third of their previously contracted hours will have their pay topped up by the government, leaving them with up to 77% of their full pay. The state's contribution is capped at £697.62 per month, leaving people on less than £40m likely to receive less than 77%.
Bectu head Philippa Childs said the grants, coupled with the impact of the 'Rule of Six' on arts events, painted a bleak picture.
"The army of freelancers and self-employed who make up the backbone of the UK creative industries face being excluded from support once again as the Chancellor continue to turn a deaf ear to their hardship.
“Without more support the UK creative sector will not get through the winter, we desperately need a targeted plan to save jobs and ensure that one of the most productive parts of our economy can survive the winter.”
Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at the cross-industry Assocition of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) described the chancellor's support as "woefully inadequate".
He added: “Limited company freelancers and the newly self-employed almost entirely missed out on support in the last lockdown and have faced bleak months of financial devastation. Now they face a dark winter ahead unless the government does more for them.
“Based on the drastic financial hit self-employed people took in the last lockdown, the new 20% cap on support is likely to be nowhere near enough. As well as plugging the gaping gaps in support, government must follow the situation closely and be ready to raise the amount of support SEISS offers if needed. The government must do better for them.”
While welcoming the "long-overdue" extension of the SEISS, Writers' Guild of Great Britain chair Lisa Holdsworth added: "We now need the chancellor to listen to the chorus of voices speaking up for those forgotten freelancers who will be left out in the cold this winter. There is real hardship out there and it is only going to get worse."