Photo credit: Tanaphong Toochinda
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit Britain in March and lockdown was enforced - something that could be seen coming for weeks if not months, provided you were paying attention, our government scrambled to bring in measures to support people with the ensuing loss of income. Furlough, 80% pay. Of course, they forgot the 5 million self employed initially, and the self-employed protested, while re-designing their businesses overnight, home schooling their children, and in some cases, dealing with illness and bereavement.
And the government responded with the SEISS or Self Employed Income Support Scheme, worked out on tax years 2016-2019. Which is great. Apart from a few small glitches - like it gave no support until late May to people who had lost all income overnight in March.
We had no means of earning anything for two months, and disastrously for me and many other parents of young children, it was based on a three year period when I was looking after a small child at home. So the scheme brought me £29 a week - or about 4% of my current income. (By 2020 my youngest was receiving free nursery hours, and I was working a lot more.)
Pregnant Then Screwed, “a charity dedicated to ending the systemic, cultural and institutional discrimination faced by thousands of pregnant women and mothers every year”, are taking the government to court, and have been granted permission for judicial review against the Chancellor of the Exchequer for discriminating against women - this means the case has been found to have merit. Read about the case here.
There is another group called Excluded UK with thousands of members who have received no financial support at all because they fall through the many cracks in the poorly designed system.
In my case, the backdrop to losing all household income was that I had severe Covid followed by long Covid - I’m still not fully well. I also had two young children at home for a large part of the year, and saw my industry - the intersection of performing arts with music education - collapse with no guarantee of recovery.
My experience has taught me that you don’t juggle motherhood with earning a living in the arts, unless you’re resourceful, resilient and adaptable. But there comes a point where to leave members of our society in an impossible situation without support and expect them to adapt, becomes a form of abuse.
In this BBC article, the chancellor cheerfully stresses that “95% of people who are self-employed will be covered by the scheme.” Which isn’t good enough is it? Because what he’s effectively saying is that it leaves 5% of approx 5 million self employed without support. And not all, but a good sized proportion of that 5% will be mothers who probably lack the energy to stay up till midnight writing letters to their MP, blog posts to flag up the problem, completing surveys, and signing petitions.
Ah well, at least it’s only during a pandemic that mothers and women are overlooked and disregarded. Wait, what?!
Never mind, that’s for another day.
Keep singing. Even if it’s through gritted teeth.