Help Musicians writes to Chancellor asking for more self-employed support

UK charity Help Musicians has written an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, asking for wholesale protection for self-employed workers in the industry amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on March 20, Sunak announced a coronavirus job retention scheme, where the government will pay up to 80% of wages for those at risk of being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, a new letter co-signed by Help Musicians Chair Graham Sheffield and CEO James Ainscough has appealed for both clarification and improved terms. While acknowledging that the government’s plan represents an “important step”, the letter asks for more comprehensive relief for self-employed musicians affected by the pandemic.

Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. Credit: Peter Summers/Getty Images

In his original statement, Sunak claimed that the proposed scheme “would cover 95 per cent of self-employed workers”. Appealing directly to the Chancellor, Help Musicians’ letter voices concerns that this means many musicians will miss out.

“Many of our friends, including UK Music, the Musicians’ Union and the Incorporated Society of Musicians, have written to you to explain the gaps in this scheme through which musicians can fall,” the statement reads.

“In particular those who have been self-employed for less than a year (or have not yet made a profit), who are part self-employed (at less than 50% of their total annual income) or who earn just above the £50,000 cap.”

The letter also explained that, in a survey of over 2,000 musicians, 87% identified as self-employed – of which 25% claimed they would not be eligible for self-employed support through the current government scheme for precisely those reasons.

“Whilst we agree that ‘the perfect should not be the enemy of the good’, our survey evidence today proves that the good is not yet good enough,” the letter says in summary.

“Therefore we urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider the rules and thresholds within your proposals in order to bring all self-employed musicians into the scheme, which they so desperately need.” Read the full letter here.

Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough had previously co-signed a similar letter from UK Music requesting additional support for self-employed musicians on March 21, the day after Sunak’s official announcement.