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Over half Western Isles self-employed workers claim support

written by Bella Palmer

Around 700 people in Na h-Eileanan Siar applied to the SEISS between August 17 and the end of the month, according to figures from HMRC

More than half of self-employed workers in Na h-Eileanan Siar have claimed grants through an extended government scheme to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed says businesses still “reeling” from the impact of Covid-19 need further support, as a second wave of the virus seems imminent.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures show around 700 people in Na h-Eileanan Siar applied to the second round of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) between August 17 and the end of the month.

That was 53 per cent of those in the area who were eligible to make a claim.

From May 13 to mid-July, eligible self-employed workers could claim a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits for a three-month period, limited to £7,500.

The grant was extended in August, but lowered to 70 per cent of profits and capped at £6,570, with applications closing on October 19.

Claims made by people in Na h-Eileanan Siar amounted to £1.7 million, or £2,500 per person on average.

In the first round of the scheme the average claim was worth £2,900.

Construction workers made the largest number of claims across Scotland (33,500) and the most common age group for applicants was 45-54 (33,400). This pattern was repeated across the UK.

They were among 126,000 seeking support – 61 per cent of those eligible across the country, which saw an average claim of £2,500.

Across the UK, just over two million people applied in August – a take-up rate of 60 per cent, with claims totalling £5.1 billion or £2,500 on average.

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said the scheme has been a vital lifeline for those who are eligible.

But now is not the time to withdraw support completely, he added. Self-employed businesses are still reeling from the economic impact of coronavirus and many of them were excluded from SEISS because of its strict eligibility criteria.

The group is calling on the Government to introduce a new round of support to ensure struggling businesses can stay afloat.

Mr Chamberlain added: As a second wave of coronavirus approaches, local lockdowns and individual quarantining measures are inevitable. Government must do more to support businesses that will be impacted by these restrictions.

A Treasury spokesman said: We’re committed to supporting the self-employed, and our Self Employment Income Support Scheme is one of the most generous in the world.

The spokesman said, those who do not qualify will be able to access our wide range of other support that is helping people who have been affected by coronavirus – including income tax deferrals, £1 billion more support for renters, access to six-month mortgage holidays, business rates relief, grants, and bounce back loans, which provide support that is interest-free for the first 12 months.


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