The lights may be out for freelancers this Christmas

High Streets lit up with fairy lights, and Christmas trees and pubs crammed as people catch up with friends and colleagues before they break up;  even the darker days add to the whole festive atmosphere. 

But this year is very different. Our high streets are desolate as people continue to work from home, pubs are empty or shut, and the dark days are just that, dark, particularly for many freelancers.

For those who have been excluded from government support, the big question is, ‘how can I afford Christmas?’

The lack of Coronavirus support has left many freelancers with no choice but to rely on their savings. 70% per cent of self-employed people who lost work due to Covid-19 have had to use up more than £20,000 of their savings to survive during the pandemic, according to a survey by contractor tax specialist Qdos.

When the UK first went into lockdown back in March, nearly half (46%) of freelancers said they had contracts terminated as a direct result. And because they were ineligible for the Job Retention Scheme and/ or Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, 81 per cent said they were forced to use their savings.

Of those lucky enough to have savings the majority have used more than £20,000, around 10 per cent said they have used between £15,001 and £20,000 and 11 per cent between £10,001 and £15,000. 

While some freelancers have returned to work, one third haven’t worked since March. 

Research published by self-employed trade body IPSE and Starling bank has found that one million self-employed people have been pushed into debt because of the pandemic. The study shows 1 in 4 (23%) freelancers (around 1.05 million) have taken on credit card debt to get by. A further 1 in 7 (14%) have used overdrafts, more than a quarter (27%) have used up their savings and a fifth (18%) say they will need to borrow to pay their tax bill.

We know that debt has a serious effect on people’s mental health and wellbeing as well as their economic wellbeing. We’re facing a serious mental health and poverty crisis and to date the chancellor is still ignoring calls for better, more tailored support. Many self-employed people will have little to celebrate this Christmas.

Jyoti Rambhai
Jyoti Rambhai

Jyoti is a freelance journalist, editor and PR consultant. Prior to that, she was the group editor for all publications at IPSE and founder of Modern Work, a trade magazine published by the association, aimed at small businesses and freelancers.

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