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Musicians’ Union welcomes extension of SEISS but says more needs to be done to support musicians

By | Published on Monday 1 June 2020

Musicians' Union

The Musicians’ Union has welcomed last week’s extension of the UK government’s Self Employed Income Support Scheme, but called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do more for musicians who are not currently eligible for any COVID-19 financial aid.

Late last week, the government announced that its scheme to support freelancers who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown would be extended for another three months in line with the furlough scheme for people in traditional employment. As such, a further round of grants will be made available in August.

The music industry, which involves an unusually high number of self-employed people, had been calling on the government to extend its support for freelancers as well as those formally employed. Therefore, the MU welcomed last week’s announcement on SEISS. But it also again pointed out that many freelancers aren’t actually eligible for the scheme, for various reasons.

“We absolutely must not forget the 45% of musicians who are currently not covered by SEISS”, it said in a statement. “No musician should be left to fall through the cracks in the government’s current support schemes”.

The union is calling for SEISS-style support to be extended to those musicians who have been self-employed for less than a year; or whose self-employed income accounts for less than 50% of their total income; or who operate as a limited company and pay themselves through dividends, rather than being registered as a sole-trader for tax purposes.

It also wants ministers to ensure that those who have taken time off work for parental leave do not receive less support as a result; and to speed up the application process for those seeking Universal Credit support and/or to offer an alternative method of covering the income gap while those eligible for SEISS await payment.

These points are all relevant, of course, to many freelancers across the wider music industry and well beyond, in addition to musicians. The MU is calling on its members to write to their MPs to argue for these changes to the system.