A Dundee photographer’s financial plight has been raised at the highest level in the House of Commons.
Freelance photographer Chris Scott is not eligible for a self-employed income support scheme grant, leaving him with nowhere to turn for financial aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week he contacted LBC radio during a call in with Labour leader Keir Starmer and asked him to lobby the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
However, on Wednesday Sir Keir put Chris’ case directly to Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions, during which he highlighted the plight of three million self-employed people who had “fallen through the cracks” of government support schemes.
Chris said: “I got the self-employed £10,000 grant back in March but I ended up paying £8,000 refunding clients because all the weddings I had booked got cancelled this year.
“I was left with £2,000 from that so I was hoping to get the self-employed income support grant.
“But because I had invested all my money into my studio a few years ago I carried over a loss meaning I was £137 off the eligibility criteria for the grant.
“Basically if I had bought one less chair I would have got the grant.
“There are so many cracks in this.
“I was not allowed to do family portraits either and even now in level 3 I have had to cancel clients due to come in for a photoshoot because they were from Monifieth or Carnoustie, so even now my business is being affected.
“There is just no income coming in.”
He said it was “brilliant” to be able to get Keir Starmer to raise his issue in parliament, but said he was “furious” with Boris Johnson’s response
The Prime Minister said he recognised that people had made great sacrifices during the pandemic but the solution was to continue to drive down cases of the virus.
Chris added: “It is an extremely big challenge and it is not just me, there is a whole range of people who are being excluded from help.
“What they should have done when three million people were excluded from the grant is look at different criteria or treat everyone who is self-employed the same as those getting furloughed.
“We are not asking for special treatment, just to be treated the same as others.
“Twenty or 30 years down the line those who are being excluded now will have to pay for the ones who are getting help which is a double kick in the teeth, we will not be taxed any differently from the ones who are getting help.
“When Keir Starmer raised my case in Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson cold- shouldered the question.
“It was classic deflection. I am furious at his response.
“The way I see it Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson have washed their hands of the three million excluded.
“I am down 80% on last year and my partner has just been made redundant when there is nothing coming in.
“It is a lot of pressure.
“There needs to be an emergency fund with immediate access and the government should look at backdating this to March.
“We were told the self-employed were the backbone of the economy and now we are being treated as second class citizens.”
A spokesman for the Treasury said: “Our Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is one of the most generous in the world and has helped more than 2.7m people so far.
“Those who do not qualify are able to access our wide range of other support – including income tax deferrals, support for renters, access to mortgage holidays, business rates relief and grants, and bounce back loans, which provide support that is interest free for the first 12 months.
“Where there have been exclusions, these have been for reasons such as targeting support to low earners or to avoid unacceptable fraud.”