SEISS, furlough payments, mortgage holidays and other forms of Government support have been extended a number of times throughout 2020. Rishi Sunak and the wider Government have had no choice but to spend billions on keeping the economy afloat but according to backinbusiness.org,uk, the state’s recent efforts have left much to be desired.
According to their analysis, the Government’s range of national lockdowns, firebreaks and tiered restrictions have had a devastating impact on the UK’s small businesses, freelancers and self-employed, leading to massive job losses and increased poverty.
The Government’s response to coronavirus has been deemed controversial to many as trying to find the balance between protecting health and the economy has proven to be extremely difficult.
On finding the best course of action, Professor Sunetra Gupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor of theoretical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, shared his thoughts on a possible “third way” of managing the response which would out focus on those who may have been left out thus far: “We know that lockdowns and other restrictions cause enormous harm with serious long-term health and economic effects.
“We want to be involved in discussions as to whether it could be possible to protect the vulnerable while allowing the rest of the population to go about their business as usual and start building up natural immunity.
“This is how we live with all the other four coronaviruses and with influenza.”
This sentiment was shared by Liz Barclay, the CEO at backinbusiness.org.uk, who had the following to say: “We understand the health case for intermittent lockdowns, firebreaks and restrictions.
“But it’s clear to see, as the pandemic goes on, they are having a devastating impact on small businesses and on the wellbeing of the people who run those businesses and work for them.
Recently, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed there was a drop of 174,000 self-employed workers between April-June and July-September 2020.
Overall, this left the sector at 4.53 million, down from 5.1 million at the end of 2019, a fall that according to Derek Cribb, the CEO of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), could be laid directly at the Government’s door: “The continuing drop in the number of self-employed in the UK shows that the glaring gaps in support are leading to long-term, avoidable decline in the sector. This is deeply concerning not only for the self-employed themselves but also for the UK’s prospects in the coming recession.
“After the 2008 financial crisis, it was rising self-employed numbers that kept unemployment comparatively low – as uncertain employers looked for more flexible expertise instead of permanent employees. Now, this does not appear to be happening and the self-employed sector is in precipitous decline. Some self-employed are finding their way into full-time roles, but many others are joining the record flow into unemployment.
“Government must work quickly to stem this flow by urgently getting support to the left-behind self-employed groups. Extending support would be a cost now, yes, but it would be a temporary cost during the pandemic, to hold back an even worse unemployment problem later.”