71% of creative industry freelancers fear not being able to pay their bills

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by Stephen Chapman

A survey of freelancers working in the creative industry has found that 71% fear they won’t be able to pay their bills, due to work lost because of coronavirus.

The survey of 5600 people by the union Bectu closed on Monday this week, that’s before social distancing was implemented by the Government and the postponement of filming on a number of high profile television dramas.

46% of respondents said they had already lost money as a result of the virus.

456 reported already losing over £5,000

457 reported losing £2,000-£5,000

591 said they had lost up to £2000.

While many said they couldn’t estimate future loss of earnings, due to uncertainty about the length of the disruption, 131 said they could lose over £40k.

437 said they could lose £20,000-40,000 and 783 people said they may lose up to £20,000.

83% of those who took part reported themselves as freelancers working across TV, film, live tours, theatres, art galleries and art studios.

Bectu is calling for the government to take immediate action to create a “meaningful safety net” for those who have lost all their work and income because of coronavirus.

These include: direct financial support for freelance and self-employed workers, through a retroactive tax rebate; deferment of the 31st July tax deadline and VAT deadline on 7 May as well as the announced delay of IR35; and adding rent holidays to the previously confirmed mortgage holidays.

They also want interest free loans and measures to eliminate or suppress credit card interest to prevent debt spirals; and drastic simplification of Universal Credit application processes.

“Bectu can’t emphasise enough how urgently we need the government to act. This survey started just after the Budget announcement. We have since had another update from the Chancellor but still nothing for freelancers, the self-employed and those on zero hours contracts,” said Head of Bectu Philippa Childs.

“These people have literally seen their income stream disappear in the space of a few days. They pay their taxes without fail, contribute to a thriving sector of the economy and don’t have the structure of an employer.

“The government can’t ignore them any longer. Just like those who are employed and receive salaries, freelancers also have families to feed and must pay the bills to keep a roof over their heads.

“The government must make sure any further protections put in place cover the entire economy’s workforce.”