More than 30,000 self-employed support claims made in Shropshire during pandemic

More than 30,000 workers in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin have made claims for government self-employment support during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

And thousands more were furloughed in the area at the end of September – but campaigners say millions across the UK have been excluded from the schemes and ignored by Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Spending Review.

New figures from HM Revenue and Customs show 37,000 claims were made for either of the Government's two Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grants before they closed towards the end of October – worth £102.2 million.

The first of these was taken-up by 74 per cent of eligible claimants in Shropshire and 78 per cent in Telford & Wrekin before applications closed on July 13. The second, which shut on October 19, had a take-up rate of 62 per cent in Shropshire and 70 per cent in Telford & Wrekin.

The third grant, which opens for claims today, will provide a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of three months' average monthly trading profits, capped at £7,500 – with a fourth to follow from February.

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The HMRC figures also show 9,300 jobs were furloughed in Shropshire as of the end of September through the Job Retention Scheme, 7 per cent of all eligible jobs, down from 10 per cent a month previously.

5,200 jobs were furloughed in Telford & Wrekin as of the end of September - 6 per cent of all eligible jobs - down from 9 per cent a month previously.

Across the UK, almost 5 million people applied for the two initial Seiss grants, with claims totalling £13.5 billion.

And at its peak in May, almost 9 million jobs were furloughed through the Job Retention Scheme, though this has fallen to just under 2.5 million in the most recent data.

But ExcludedUK, a group created to campaign for the rights of those left out of the Covid-19 support measures, claim as many as three million are lacking support.

Among these are the newly self-employed, those unable to claim Seiss support because more than half of their income is from employment, and anyone denied furlough pay – including zero-hour contract workers.

A spokesman said Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Spending Review was the ideal opportunity to help end the increasingly "severe hardship" people are facing.

He added: "The impacts of these exclusions are profoundly damaging – to lives, livelihoods and the economy, making recovery and growth all the more challenging.

"Failure to address the situation will only lead to these impacts becoming more acute, amid considerable uncertainty and a long recovery process ahead."

Answering questions after his address to the House of Commons, Mr Sunak denied it was accurate to describe those people as excluded, saying 1.5 million are not majority self-employed.

He said: "It is reasonable to assume that they will benefit from the furlough scheme, and that is how the majority of their earnings come in.

"That principle was supported at the time by every trade association that I spoke to when designing the scheme."

He added that Universal Credit and other support measures would be "significant" in making up the difference.

The Treasury Committee had previously written to Mr Sunak asking him to explore similar initiatives to those in Scotland and Northern Ireland for workers who had "fallen through the cracks".

Chair Mel Stride MP said: “The Committee urged the Chancellor to help these people months ago, yet many of them continue to be excluded from support schemes through no fault of their own."

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