by Annette J Beveridge
It’s hard to believe in this day and age that people are fearful for their very existence and having to rely on the kindness of others or food banks to get by. But that is exactly what is happening right now in Britain. Sadly, and calculatingly, this Conservative Government chose to leave 3 million people behind and have abandoned them as if they are worthless.
How do I know this? I am one of the excluded.
The starting point
Let’s go back to the beginning as it reads like an evil fairy tale.
2020 is the year of the modern day plague. It occurred as a result of Chinese wet markets where various species were kept in close proximity to each other. Zoonotic diseases can spread to people. This happens due to our intrusion on habitat that puts us in close proximity with wildlife. In the case of the wet markets, species that would never typically come into contact with each other now do so. It is likely that this led to deadly infections on a global scale.
Here in Britain – through inaction and complacency, we were caught out – unprepared for the true impact of a new virus. As we all fearfully faced this pandemic, we had to rely on the generosity of governmental aid.
At first, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak dug deep into the treasury pockets and seemed to be committed to his promise of never leaving anyone behind. The Prime Minister and the Treasury said they would place their arms around the country. They created the furlough scheme and SEISS, grants and loans. For many, there was a sigh of relief and gratitude. This pandemic left most unprepared and fear began to escalate. But something else also happened…..brand Rishi was born.
He is eloquent, enthusiastic, and actually, quite polished. Unlike most chancellors, he seemed to see beyond the economic costs and was prepared to do the right thing. But for 3 million people, there was only dismay, bewilderment, and panic. There was no money on offer. The talk was cheap. It was designed to promote him into the spotlight as some sort of saviour. No money was forthcoming. No help, no support and no way of paying the bills. Whatever savings people had, or money owed to them….that was going to have to last for some time.
Those who have been abandoned include freelancers, PAYE, Ltd companies, newly self-employed, and so on.
As I mentioned, I am one of the excluded. However, I am fortunate that I have been able to move my office and work from home. Even so, I lost approximately 2/3 of my income in March 2020. It was as if someone had pulled the plug on my business. Contracts after contracts were pulled. Oh yes, I received some work but no where near the quantity I would normally have. At first, I shrugged. Freelancing work and to some degree, publishing work can be fickle. People don’t always consider having an article written or a book marketed as a priority especially if their own finances are tight. I have learned to go with the flow, but this was different. I lost a huge amount of money and felt the first trickle of fear. My business was rock solid, wasn’t it?
Even though I was able to keep going and some work came my way, albeit, inconsistently, I still felt anxious. If this virus continued, what would happen then?
But let’s fast-forward. Now, almost 10 months later, the excluded 3 million are still waiting. Yes, some have managed to find a little work – but it has been stop and start repeatedly. Some are on Universal Credit, others obtained Bounce Back Loans, but in the main, life has been incredibly tough. People have used up all of their savings, many have been turned down for Universal Credit, they are instead living on, ‘what if’s,’ and living day to day in a state of suspended fear while the future seeps away and many businesses go under. It is cruel.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor have ignored us. At first, people thought it was an oversight rather than a callous betrayal. But then, a pattern emerged. It seems that ruthless policy decisions were made to deliberately exclude people. But why?
Apparently, it was too complicated to bother, and there was the potential for fraud, the latter being a nail in the coffin of patience for all those who were abandoned. It was insulting. While most of the UK breathed a sigh of relief or, perhaps, berated the fact they only had 80% of their usual earnings, the excluded had £0. The decision to cast people adrift has resulted in some committing suicide. Those who are left, feel desperate and are depressed, anxious and isolated. Mental health issues are severe.
The reality of the self-employed
Being self-employed is not easy. Being a freelancer or sole-trader is not easy. In fact, anyone who takes the plunge to start or maintain a business has grit. We are the entrepreneurs, we are the self-motivating and imaginative. We all work hard. We care about our businesses, and our chosen industries. There is a need for innovation and dedication and there must be a drive to succeed. Many people feel that the self-employed are wealthy but that isn’t necessarily the case. When you work for yourself, you work round the clock, you have to make difficult decisions, you budget profusely, and you don’t get sick pay.
New businesses require more investment than you might expect. So many of the new self-employed invested much of their free capital into the business and then, the pandemic struck. This investment into the business counts as income.
If a business supports an individual’s lifestyle, then, it is not unrealistic to expect support when the rest of the country have received it.
In times of a pandemic, many have received nothing at all.
There is a group on Facebook and Twitter called Excluded UK who are doing their utmost to get the word out there and to canvas media attention. It’s working too. If anything, it will shame the Government and the Treasury to do the right thing. Sadly, they do not seem to care.
One person or three million, it does not matter to them. Neglect and abandonment has serious implications.
Piers Morgan has created awareness on GMB. Sadiq Khan, Caroline Lucas, Tracy Brebin have provided support. Keir Starmer has raised the issue with the Prime Minister at PMQ’s. Martin Lewis has expressed support too. In fact, there are many MP’s who understand the situation but the Conservatives are so far, refusing to do more. Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have been instrumental in creating media coverage too and fighting against this blatant discrimination.
Thanks goes to all who have offered support. Success is still not ours. The government have an 80 seat majority. The other parties can cajole, complain and berate the decision to exclude us but the Prime Minister and the Chancellor does not care.
Imagine knowing that there is no money coming in. No money to pay bills or to get food. Family and friends try to support but they don’t have much spare. That’s the true reality for some.
We cannot let Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak get away with this. To do so would open the way for additional discriminative behaviour. Right now, the spin is escalating. Rather than admitting they have callously discriminated against millions of people, they focus only on all that they have done. This is a distraction method. It does not change the facts.
Three million people cannot access the SEISS, or grants, or even, Universal Credit. How can people live?
This goes beyond discrimination. It is cruel and heartless and it is harrowing. For all who have been abandoned, I say, try and keep going and remain strong. I know how difficult it is when life has fallen apart and there is nothing but uncertainty, but at some point, our Government may decide to correct their cruel actions and admit the failures of this system. If this remains unresolved, what happens next?
Well, nothing is impossible. If a government are able to get away with leaving people in abject poverty, they will. Next time, it could be you left with nothing.