A body which represents the country’s self-employed workers says the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which was launched in March, is still letting tens of thousands of people across the UK tumble through the gap.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced self-employed people will be able to claim a grant worth 80 percent of their average monthly profits, up to £2,500 a month, to protect them from the fallout of the pandemic.
But those who became self-employed during the last year are not eligible to apply – of whom there are around 150,000 across the country.
The Office for National Statistics analysed the number of workers in 14 city regions across the UK, as well as non-metropolitan regions.
The South West is home to 6.6 percent of the country’s self-employed workers at risk of missing out on the scheme, after the West of England Combined Authority city region – which covers Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire – is excluded.
Across the region, 9,931 people became self-employed during the 2019-20 tax year.
The real figure is likely to be even higher, as those who began their solo venture between January and March 2020 have not yet been counted.
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed said the support scheme does give generous support to millions across the country, but that more needs to be done to support the newly self-employed.
Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “Too many of the UK’s vital self-employed community are still tumbling through the gaps in the financial support package.
“The Government must do more for the 150,000 people who went freelance too recently to benefit from the scheme.
“We believe the Government should let these people file a tax return in the next month and use this to allow them to access the scheme.
“The Government has taken unprecedented steps to support certain self-employed groups, but it must go further to support all parts of this diverse and vital community through the coronavirus crisis.”
Separate data reveals Gloucestershire was home to 40,000 people who work for themselves, in the 2017-18 tax year.
They had an average salary of £23,000, compared to £30,700 for workers who aren’t self-employed.
The Treasury said while 150,000 workers might not be able to access the scheme, around 95 percent of self-employed people can benefit from it.
In addition, some workers can access the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, providing they have a business bank account, or apply for Universal Credit.
Income tax payments due in July can also be deferred until January 2021.
An HMT spokesman said: “We’re fully committed to supporting the self-employed and our Self Employment Income Support scheme is one of the most generous in the world.
“Those who do not qualify will be able to access a range of other support – including income tax deferrals, £1 billion more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.”