Campaigners have delivered a petition to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for emergency assistance for the three million people excluded from the Government’s pandemic financial support schemes.
The activists want support to be extended to taxpayers who cannot access the furlough scheme or other forms of aid if they wish to keep working to ensure their businesses do not collapse.
Many people are blocked from applying for financial support or furlough cash based on the structure of their companies or their level of savings.
Among the signatories were thousands of small business directors and people who are newly self-employed.
New parents are also calling for an extension to paid maternity and paternity leave because usual post-natal services have been shut during the pandemic.
The campaign was organised by Excluded UK, an umbrella organisation of advocacy groups, and attracted 232,517 signatures on Parliament’s petitions website, and a further 34,650 on Change.org.
Out supporting the campaign was TV money saving expert Martin Lewis.
Speaking close to Downing Street, he said the Government had unwittingly overlooked millions of businesses when designing its pandemic support schemes.
“Understandably you (the Government) want to get back on with rebuilding the economy, you have to understand the damage to those millions of people who have had no support,” Mr Lewis said.
“I would ask you urgently to look at those people and to take those who are struggling now, and who are seeing a major impact on their business finances, their personal finances and their mental health and do what you can to support those who most need support.”
A cross-party group of MPs including former environment secretary Theresa Villiers, the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, ex-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and Labour’s Rupa Huq were also present.
Ms Lucas told the PA news agency: “If all of these businesses go bust and all of these people no longer have their livelihoods, apart from all the personal tragedy, it is going to cost the economy an awful lot more to support them if they are out of work than it would to support them through these difficult months until they get back on their feet.”
Ms Huq said: “The Government are the party supposedly of business and the self-employed, and it is just shocking how many people have fallen through the gap.”
The Ealing Central and Acton MP compared the rules surrounding access to business support to a game of snakes and ladders “where it is all snakes and no ladders”.
Injury rehabilitation therapist Bethany Power, 29, attended the event with her seven-month-old son Jayden to call for an extension to paid parental leave.
Ms Power, from Rochester in Kent, said parents were being asked to return to work without having had any kind of breast feeding or weaning support, basic medical check-ups or even child care due to a shortage caused by social distancing measures.
“Some babies haven’t even been held by anyone other than their parents (due to shutdown),” she said.
“How can we put them into a child care setting with no introduction without them getting severe separation anxiety or child mental health or maternal mental health issues?”
Kate Solomons, 38, from Leicester, who is director of a small events company, said she would be left with around £570 per month from the Government’s payment scheme.
But under the rules, unlike those listed as self-employed, she is not allowed to work on her business if she makes a claim.
“There are three million small businesses in the UK and we employ seven and a half million people, so if our businesses go bust it’s going to be catastrophic,” she said.