You can read the intro blog post here, or listen to it on the
Soundcloud playlist at the bottom of this page, along with a
voice recorded version of the 'Freelance Supporters Menu'.
(ORGANISATION SPONSOR EDITION)
VERSION TWO - SEPTEMBER 2020
The Freelance Task Force was set up to strengthen the influence of freelancers, amplifying the voice of this majority workforce and creating better, more sustainable, more equitable relationships between freelancers and organisations in the theatre industry.
This menu has been designed for organisations to choose ways that they will commit to supporting freelancers and the wider sector in the long and short term. It provides a series of provocations, collated from some of the research emerging from individuals on the Freelance Task Force and will be offered for consideration to the Freelance Task Force sponsors first, before being disseminated nationwide. As a Freelance Task Force sponsor, you have already signalled your commitment to the majority workforce. This menu offers a series of thought exercises to direct your action following your commitment.
This is one of a plethora of documents to be compiled during the Freelance Task Force, and is one seen through the eyes of those who have pulled it together - Ashleigh Bowmott and Laura Sweeney of The Uncultured. That means it is not a comprehensive assessment of all of the work to have taken place. There is more information available on other Freelance Task Force work at freelancetaskforce.co.uk.
This is a living document that will point to some of the work that was and continues to be undertaken by members of the Freelance Task Force throughout summer 2020. This is version two.
There are “big ticket items” which offer provocations to support you in making purposeful decisions to lead your organisation with imagination for the long term improvement of working conditions for everyone.
There are also “small ticket items” which will enable you to proactively participate in change with some short term improvements. These will incrementally enable fairer practices across the sector.
You might also choose a pick and mix of some or all of these menu options. We recommend that you consider at least one big ticket item, and at least three small ticket items to get you started. For example you might choose “Access” as a big ticket item, and then “Anti-Racist Practices and Accountability”, “Management” and “Redistributing Organisational Funds” as small ticket items. Consider each of the provocations within these sections, refer to the further reading, and source some extra reading of your own.
We encourage you to put aside some time to work with the freelancer you have been sponsoring to discuss these ideas in depth. This time will need further remuneration if the contract you had with that person has ended. They can act as your expert, a critical friend, who can then signpost you to others who can support you in particular areas that will strengthen your business with the majority workforce at its core. Those who are conducted this research within the Freelance Task Force want to support your exploration and implementation of this organisational development. They need to be paid to do so.
All of these options are anchored in kindness and freelancers are watching your moves with compassion. Some of these menu options will be difficult to work through, but we encourage you to think through why some of them might make you feel uncomfortable and push into that. In this world-shifting time, place everything on the table without assumptions and rigorously critique your practice. Ask others in your organisation to contemplate this menu, ask peers who can support you in making brilliant albeit difficult decisions. Consider what it will mean for you to make bold and radical moves for the benefit of more people as you are part of shaping the next practice of theatre.
This document has been compiled by Ashleigh Bowmott and Laura Sweeney of The Uncultured with input from Beccy D’Souza, Lily Einhorn, Victor Esses, Daisy Hale, Gillie Kleiman, Polly Jerrold, Lora Krasteva, Kate O’Connor, Rachel Mars, Emma Jayne Park, Beth Sitek, Paula Varjack and Leo Wan of the “Burn it Down - Radical Task Force Working Group”. It mentions the work of a plurality of voices from the Freelance Task Force.
Or listen to a voice recording of each chapter on the
Soundcloud playlist below.
Task Force Reflections
You can listen to the full post below here, or read on:
(Length: 14 minutes)
The Freelance Task Force has come to an end of it’s 13 weeks.
For those of us who have an interest in worker politics and believe that advocacy around freelancer sustainability is an intrinsic part of our roles, the “work” of the Task Force was not new, and also will not end here. However, having this work formalised under a recognisable moniker, and also having it valued through payment has offered a sense of legitimacy to this work that I had not previously experienced. This is not to insinuate that legitimacy is only attached to recognition and payment, but rather that it has been a tool through which to communicate with an audience who tend to attribute value through recognition (eg your affiliation with an organisation they know) rather than through excellence (eg taking the time to listen to individual perspectives accounting for their intersectional knowledges). Freelancers are individual workers by their very nature and therefore don't have the luxury of a hyperreal brand personality through which to wield influence. Rachel Mars described being part of the Task Force as like having a little power jacket to put on. For me this demonstrates the most powerful illusion of working collectively, even if that collectivity is structured through difference and individual interest. This little power jacket is sewn with a thread of threat, a thread of "there are more of us than you, and now we have our own channels of communication". Through the structure of sponsor organisation payment, each organisation has financially declared their belief in this process. For these purposes it matters less whether they actually believe that the whole system should change and that freelancers should be better supported, and more that they have paid for the cloth that has been cut into 160 or more little power jackets.
I haven’t checked with Fuel, but with some fag packet maths it seems it cost around £400,000 to run the Task Force for a total of 13 days. This is a significant investment by any project standard (obviously a drop in the ocean in comparison to the upcoming 2022 celebration of nationalism and xenophobia, but that would be an extreme example whatever the financial weather). This investment has secured direct employment of around 160 individuals. At this point in time I feel it is not hyperbole to acknowledge that this is 160+ mouths fed, 160+ rent or mortgage payments made, or 160+ people’s expertise remaining in the industry just a little longer.
The Task Force outputs have been multifarious, and I only really know about the things I've had involvement in. That comes with some sadness, but also some ambivalence due to the recognition that I don't have to be involved with everything and that everyone being involved or even aware doesn't automatically equal success. Laura and I have been directly involved with the Freelance Supporters Menu (developed with support mostly from the phenomenal "Burn It Down" working group), the Producer Survey and resulting data report (with a selection of great producers, driven by fan favourite Dais Hale), and the New Ways workshop (led by Gillie Kleiman). The Task Force has also given us the opportunity to create otherwise impossible connections between geographically and disciplinarily dispersed freelancers. It is possible that this has been the most transformative aspect of the project for me. It connects us out to dispersed and diverse knowledges I didn’t even know I needed to have relation with.
For 13 days work this is remarkable. It is, I feel, significant value for money.
This should not, however, obfuscate what a complexly difficult and damaging process the Task Force has been. The closed-door recruitment processes and disparity in wages for the exact same work ensured that the Task Force was built on inequitable foundations. There were consistent disagreements amongst individual members of the Task Force, as power dynamics demonstrated that they are a problem of privilege rather than a problem with organisations as a concept. The same damaging structures were created with absolutely no thought or critique. People of colour were repeatedly silenced. Deaf and disabled colleagues were left with barriers to their access. Administrative capabilities became the language of power through which others could be silenced by circumstance and therefore excluded from participation. To counter this, some of the more benevolent members of the Task Force made their entire workload about questioning and trying to dismantle these power grabs. Some of the final “full” Task Force meetings were framed as check-ins of care, rather than about forwarding solutions, answers, and outputs at an inhuman accelerationist pace.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, Laura and I received £150 a day remuneration on a job share, therefore £150 x 6.5 days each. In reality, we did more work than this. The added hours brings our day rate down to somewhere in the region of £55 a day. I welcome anyone salaried to tell me the last time they knowingly worked for around £55 a day. To help out that’s £6.87 an hour which I think is just slightly under what I earned when I worked in HMV 14 years ago at the age of 19. I welcome anyone salaried who has similar family circumstances to me (the sole household earner with two children under the eligible age of childcare support) to tell me the last time they knowingly worked for £6.87 an hour. I welcome anyone salaried who has a similar career background to Laura and I (cumulatively two BA’s, two MA’s, a PhD, a teacher training qualification, training in Specific Learning Difficulties, accountancy and book-keeping training, experience in dance, theatre and the visual arts, experience running organisations, over 15 years experience freelancing and over 10 years facilitation experience) to tell me the last time they knowingly worked for £6.87 an hour. I really hope it was a long time ago.
I want to be quite emphatic in pointing out that we did not work extra hours because The Yard (our sponsor) forced us, or expected more of us. But at the same time I am fairly tired of the framing that it is my choice and that we could just, at any point, stop working if the paid time runs out. This is not quite how it works. With jobs with concrete outcomes it is easier to understand where you are in relation to the outcome, what has led to more time being required than expected. With Task Force the job was to attend industry meetings, understand and advocate for better practice for working with freelancers. This amorphous role brings with it an element of being “on Task Force duty” as often as you possibly can. If we didn’t attend a meeting, we might miss something that is being announced or changed. There is no wider company briefing for this that will bring us up to speed, or a colleague we can chat to in passing in the office. Like with all of our practice as freelancers, if we don’t know something, we are just behind, and therefore just not as good at our jobs. As producers it is our job to know the nuance of the shifting Arts Council England guidelines, or the percentage of successful applicants to a niche charitable fund, or have the most insight possible into almost opaque programming procedures. We do that entirely out of “project” time and therefore unpaid. We all do it by having our ear to the ground all day and night, seven days a week. All of us. This is a massive waste of human labour. That won’t change without transparency and better communication from organisations and funders and very different processes across the sector. If we didn’t do this unpaid labour we wouldn’t be in a position to take on the paid labour and we wouldn’t be very good at our jobs. But we are. Very good, and very tired.
Having said that, in a push to ensure that we are not undermining the wage capacity of ourselves and others in the workforce, and as part of a promise made during our recent DIY workshop, Laura and I have committed to finding ways to practice in a manner that ensures all activity is paid for. We’ve begun this process through a timesheet system and protocols for accounting for time. In the interim we will be balancing on our privileges to ensure different methods of accessing money to complete this work. For example, residency and training time for arts support workers in which we could focus on all the peripheral work that is necessary but doesn’t feed into one specific outcome. Another example is working with organisations to streamline their processes when working with artists and those in supporting roles so that the burden of administrative responsibility is not placed unduly on to freelancers. At some point it’s going to mean us all being a bit more honest around what funders, donors and ticket buyers are getting for their money. I know the workload within organisations is also huge. But if that means that the majority of people working in the sector are overworked and underpaid it is our duty to change the sector right now. We must diligently and transparently articulate why difficult decisions and a culture shift are necessary to make it a sector to be proud to work in. As demonstrated in the data collected in the Freelance Task Force Producer Survey, 73% of independent producers are subsidising their producing with other work and benefits. If the subsidy is with benefits (as it has been in my own case) this is a wildly distracting way of distributing public money when UBI is so frequently scoffed at. If it is with other work this is perpetuating ableist, classist and gendered practices. This is very much the case when only 46% of people claim to work part-time hours on their producing. That means 54% of people are working full time hours and presumably at least 27% (but anything as much as 54%) are working full time hours and still needing to subsidise their producing with other work and benefits. Why would anyone want to promote this as a style of work to future generations? Some of these considerations and many more led us to producing the Freelance Supporters Menu during our Task Force time.
Producing the menu during this time threw up another difficult, albeit somewhat expected, realisation connected to the perception of our work. Truthfully the Freelance Supporters Menu is mostly made up of thoughts Laura and I had discussed well before 2020 and Covid and more visible or more publicly discussed economic disparity. We have been considered outspoken (with all the gender connotations attached that this particular adjective), extreme and radical. Now that these same thoughts have been disseminated to organisations cloaked in the little power jacket of Task Force, organisations have described the provocations as "vital", "useful day-to-day", "brilliant", "a gift", "thought-provoking", “superb” and “sector-changing”. It is not lost on us that they feel that a little bit of their buy in has made these thoughts worth hearing.
Of course, there has been some disdain at the contents of the menu. No one has come to us directly, which we'd welcome, but we've heard tales that one building director felt it went too far and was unfair for them as a director. I am truly sorry for any moment that a person feels upset, which is why we wrote the menu, anchored in kindness, for a more equitable future practice for more people. And, of course, the public show of appreciation for a document, and the undertaking of the work suggested within that which is necessary to make change, are two different things. Being able to tweet a worker-centred "radical" aphorism whilst simultaneously making secret redundancies isn't a skill set I admire, not that anyone asked my opinion.
I guess I don’t have a neat summary for the experience of working on this quite unique, quite powerful experiment. It has exposed a tendency for individuals to seek to replicate damaging behaviours when they centre themselves. It has also shown that within 13 days you can demand better access for more people (this wasn’t done perfectly, but the beginnings of a better way of working were begun); you can have BSL interpreters and captioners at every meeting; you can work in creative and complex ways remotely; you can have productive meetings entirely centered on wellbeing and care; and you can disagree and have different outcomes and still value and welcome plurality.
To end on the most positive note I can, in the final “Burn It Down” meeting, we discussed the way this had become a space of friendship between two dimensional heads and shoulders, scattered across the country and even the continent. Gillie Kleiman shared a text by carla bergman and Nick Montgomery titled Joyful Militancy: Building Resistance in Toxic Times. The dedication at the front of this book spoke to me as a gratitude to all of those individuals who have dedicated their mid-pandemic summer to advocating for, what they believe to be, a better life for more people.
To everyone in cramped spaces and stifling atmospheres
letting in fresh air and finding wiggle room
embracing messiness and mistakes together
learning to move with fierce love and uncertainty
making us capable of something new
During our time so far on the Freelance Task Force, we've worked to collate 'A Freelance Supporters Menu' to reflect some of the thinking and research that could offer provocation to arts organisations to reflect on how freelancers can be better supported.
This is draft 1, created at the 9 week mark of 13, so we plan to update this to more fully reflect the whole Task Force process at the end.
Please watch this video for an introduction to the Menu and then you can download 'A Freelance Supporters Menu' in full from the link below.
Closed captions are available on the video.
Super pleased to announce that we are hosting one of the iconic Live Art Development Agency DIY's this year!
DIY 2020: Doing, Undoing...And Doing Again
Ashleigh Bowmott and Laura Sweeney
A 3-day remote retreat for six freelance producers, curators and arts administrators who have had to undo their present and future work due to COVID-19. It will be a guided staycation which allows space to those who ‘support’ Live Art, to reflect on “business as usual”, get some much deserved socially-distanced nourishment, and the collective development of radical terms and conditions.
This DIY is run in partnership with ArtHouse Jersey.
About the workshop
We will work together for 3 days in a row:
Day 1: Doing
The old ways of working – now we have a moment to reflect, how were we working before? What aspects of our roles felt like they were going well? Which bits were absolutely dreadful?
Day 2: Undoing
A much-deserved day off – a self-care day, where we undo the expectations we have put on ourselves to support as many people as possible, often at our own expense.
Day 3: …And Doing Again
Work will return soon – how can we make changes before we fall back into our old ways? What is within our power to change? What will be our terms and conditions for going to work?
Where? In your house
Money? Each participant will be given a stipend of £140 to take part.
How do I apply? Visit the LADA website and fill in the v short application form by 5pm, Sunday 23 August 2020.
EDIT ON 22nd JULY: the templates are now uploaded on this page - see above
Today Arts Council England have shared the guidedance for the re-opening of Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants. It opens again on 22nd July and we'll add an updated template here once the portal is open, but in the meantime, here are the changes in guidance to the previous format of Project Grants.
Read the full supplementary guidance on ACE website here.
Overall budget for this funding
£59.8m until April 2021
Who is this for?
There is a particular focus on individuals for this grant in this time.
Other eligibility criteria remains the same.
How much can I apply for?
This grant strand remains split into under £15,000 and over £15,000.
ACE will manage their budget across the entire time period, so don't rush to apply straight away if you're not ready.
What is the turnaround?
Standard 6 weeks for an under £15k and 12 weeks for an over £15k, but they will try to speed this up where possible.
What can I apply for?
"Because of the circumstances during this COVID-19 period, we will be particularly keen to support:
• applications from individual creative practitioners (including time to think and plan)
• research and development activity
• organisational development activity
• live activity that can be safely delivered within this period (rather than activity with a start date far in the future)
• activity that closely aligns with our Equality Objectives"
Are the questions different now?
Still asking the same questions around the 4 criteria: Quality, Public engagement, Finance and Management. But they acknowledge that your answer may be different now and are therefore looking at applications with flexibility and openness.
ACE are aware that audience numbers may be lower, and audiences may not even be part of this phase of your project, but instead you can talk about how they may be engaged in the longer-term.
Normally you would need at least 10% match (unless in very special circumstances) - although we know that to be successful this generally sat at around 40-50% match...
This has been relaxed, so you no longer need to have any match funding to qualify, however if you do have any cash, support in kind or a mix, still add it into the budget.
Risk Management Plan compulsory on offer of grant
"We’ll ask everyone who is offered a grant in this period to confirm that they have
an appropriate risk management plan in place and that they are able to follow all current UK Government guidance on COVID-19. Our Terms and Conditions set out grantholders’ responsibilities around adhering to UK Government guidance."
What are the Equality Objectives?
The link from their PDF is broken but we think it would be this document here.
"We see diversity as an opportunity. We want to see an inclusive approach remove barriers to entry, discover new talent, raise the bar for artistic excellence, inspire innovation and spark new collaborations; we want to see our stories and experiences as a nation shared across our stages, our galleries and our public spaces.
We believe that equality and diversity should be embedded in all aspects of art and culture, which is why we’ve made the Creative Case for Diversity a central part of our funding agreements."
Can I ask ACE for help?
They are currently looking at how they can best use their resources for advice giving 'focusing in particular on those who are represented in our Equality Objectives"
We (Ash and Laura) have been selected to be part of the Freelance Task Force which has been designed as part of an initiative from Fuel to ‘strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community’ - read more about it here.
Through a complex sequence of mental gymnastics these positions have been selected by and paid for by individual organisations who have each issued contracts for 13 days of work (8 hours) across June, July and August, for a remuneration decided by that organisation. Fuel have stated that it’s an imperfect system and that this was the only way they could quickly bring people together but it has still resulted in differing understandings of what we’re all actually expected to do there and who for. Manifold questions have already reverberated around discussions of this, including:
- Are we working for our “sponsor” organisations?
- Do they want anything from us in return for this money? Do we represent them in any way?
- Do we owe them something now?
- How radical can we be in our thinking about the sector if this might negatively impact the organisation paying us?
- Are we implicit in supporting the continuation of a sector build on racist, capitalist, patriarchal principles?
Audre Lorde’s ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’ have been echoing loudly.
We don’t know the answers, now or yet. But we know that this position comes with an ethical responsibility to be vocal, to be non-complicit, and basically be the mouthy cynical killjoys we both cherish being. We can’t represent anyone but ourselves, particularly other freelancers, as we’re the ones receiving money for our time, not them. However we can be the sort of people we would hope would be in “the room” if we weren’t there. We want to push, we want to provoke and we want to be part of perspectival change.
We spoke with one another at length about maybe not wanting to be part of this scheme. In part that’s because we felt like we weren’t totally sure what the aims and status of this position was, as hinted at above. In part that’s because we didn’t want to be opportunistic and were unsure that the group needed another 2 white, cis female voices. We also didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to ensure the task force is purposeful, meaningful and radical. Before taking the role, we asked if there were any appropriate candidates with a more marginalised voice who could be put forward, but sadly this wasn’t the case.
We applied to an open call sent out by The Yard, although don’t think it was an incredibly “open” open call because we only received it because we sent them an email asking how they were recruiting for it. We did this because we already work with The Yard and as we understood it each organisation was supporting freelancers they already work with. We were interviewed by two freelancers with no salaried representatives from the organisation. We explained at interview that we hoped this role might go to someone else. It didn’t. We were chosen, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. We might have been chosen because of the really small pool of applicants which possibly has something to do with lead-in time, but also has something to do with the very limited methods of sharing the call. We also might have been chosen because we said in our interview that we were trying to “find ways to burn the whole fucking system to the ground”. Or maybe it was something else.
We’re being paid £150 a day to be part of the Freelance Task Force. We negotiated this up from what The Yard initially offered because this is the minimum amount we can earn for a days work and still be able to feed ourselves and pay rent. This is a job share, and therefore the whole fee (£1950) is split between us and we’ll divvy up the work accordingly. It is a job share, and not a split and WE WILL CERTAINLY NOT BE WORKING FOR £75 A DAY. No one should be.
We’ve seen a document (and we don’t even think we were supposed to see it), but it shows what each institution are paying their freelancer. In some cases, quite frankly, it’s disgusting and undermines the intentions to “support” a freelancer entirely. If we realise we can share that document without compromising our source (because we’re spies) we’ll post it here - maybe it’s even “public” already? Pay seems to range from £100 - £200. Some people’s labour will be worth twice as much as the same labour of their peers. What does this mean for the value of this labour? Almost all organisations said they landed at their varying figures in line with ITC rates, which suggests there is some very abstract maths occurring. Fuel have said that all the organisations have “acknowledged” that it isn’t right that they’re all paying each freelancer differently and expected the same work, but that’s the issue we have with bringing something together so quickly and at such a precarious time. That’s fine, but it’s also your final warning folx - that’s not an excuse you get to use again ok?
We went into the task force inquisitive as to what the point of it all would be. We want to be incredibly clear - we will not be “going back” or “re-opening” or “working within the new normal” unless the new normal is defunded buildings in favour of the prioritisation of people; un-bordered and un-boundaried access to participation; no racism, no gender discrimination, no ableism, no classism, no intersectional injustice or disadvantage; intentional and conscious programming, curating and designing for the benefit of society and communities, not just white middle class audiences; genuine accountability for the spending of public money; no trauma related to a complete lack of value towards pastoral care; collective ownership; complete rejection of exclusionary practices that participate in anything like hostile environment policy; and flexible and equitable working to support wellbeing and work/life balance.
Having said that, of course, we will - because otherwise we would packing our shit up and leaving now. However, motions like long-term contracts between organisations and freelancers; extended covid-related financial support; promise of accountability to make organisations change intersectionally discriminatory policy through training alone - these are all just transitory demands towards TOTAL DIFFERENCE.
The first task force meeting was on Friday. It was 2 hours long, via zoom and rightly so there were a whole host of housekeeping, technical and administrative issues that made it slightly painful, although it was carefully and expertly facilitated by Xana. It's fair to say there was a certain air of people shouting their varying demands into a vortex of ever increasing zoom breakout rooms. Hopefully we’ll find our way through the anti-hierarchal nature of this before it’s too late, so that anything like genuine change can be affected. It seems that on a self-electing basis we’re going to be meeting with organisations like Equity and Arts Council England. Truthfully we still don’t know what any of it is yet. It’s messy, and that’s ok for now. However, we’ve got to quickly come up with some collective, concrete, attainable and radical action so that the sweat and tears of dismantling and doing falls into this time, and that it doesn’t just become another Theatre Zoom™ for individualised hopes and naval gazing.
Ooh this is the perfect time to launch a new arts producing company, right?...Right?
Written by Ash
Laura and I have been working together, and with some amazing artists, for around a year now. At the end of 2019 we spoke about formalising our collaboration as a company of sorts. However, when Covid-19 hit the UK during the forth week of maternity leave, planning for the future and testing new ways of working seemed unimaginable. We spoke together about needing to re-train; to move away from an exploitative sector which undervalued labour and perpetuated precarity; to find a role in which we could be remunerated appropriately, not only financially but sometimes with the words “thank you”; to find a position in which having a skillset as organisers, project managers, bookkeepers, writers, caregivers, fundraisers, educators, allies, academics, is recognised as a deeply political and creative endeavour.
We spoke like this because we were tired.
We were tired long before Covid-19, of course, but the almost instant sharp focus of injustice, inequality of access and fear that the pandemic has enabled, although not unknown to us before, has certainly amplified the bitter taste in our mouths.
Throughout this lockdown, a time without a present, as Arundahti Roy has said, we have supported one another in voice notes, zoom catch-ups and emails. As despair turns to action, as it almost always hopefully can, we have come to realise that this is very much not the time to leave our work behind. In fact, how dare we have had the privilege to think we could just walk away. It is instead exactly the moment in which we should be thinking about coming together. It is a time to collectivise, to share resources and to support one other.
We both applied to ACE’s Emergency Response Fund and were each given £2,500. Like for most, it doesn’t cover lost earnings for the next six months or the untold lost potential earnings for the next two or more years. In real terms it doesn’t even cover the hours spent undoing work already done, as tour bookings fell apart, funding applications were halted and projects downsized dramatically overnight. Truthfully I will use this money to eat, pay my mooring fees, buy nappies for my kids, and possibly buy a better hand cream, but we are also using this money to pay ourselves for the labour of establishing The Uncultured.
The Uncultured takes our shared interests of artist development and social change and allows us to think holistically about how we produce, curate, facilitate and advocate. We are interested in supporting fair, kind and caring practices as a form of strength and resistance to historical injustices. We want to shout loud and ask questions and ask people to tell us why we might be wrong. We want to support a shift in the way freelancers and institutions work together for their mutual benefit. We want to hold on to some of the pain we’ve all felt in this moment to help make sure it can’t happen this way again.
So…I guess we’ll see…but maybe this is the time to launch a new arts producing company after all?
Today Ash and I attended 2 different HMRC webinars regarding the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), so thought we’d do a bit of summary in case it’s helpful to anyone else. We aren’t experts in this so if you have something a bit more complicated to check, try and go along to one of these webinars yourself to see if that helps.
You can register to attend one here - last one 11th May.
It's a bit long but fingers crossed there is something useful in there,
Summary of important info:
DOWNLOAD: Handout from the webinar with lots of useful links
Am I eligible?
First up, check if you’re eligible here.
You need your National Insurance number and your Unique Tax Reference (UTR).
You should also log in to the Government Gateway and make sure that your contact details are updated.
If I’m eligible, how do I get it?
“HMRC will aim to provide eligible individuals with information about how to apply by mid May 2020, and will make payments by early June 2020.”
“The online service will be available from 13 May 2020. If you’re eligible, we will tell you the date you can make your claim from. If your claim is approved you’ll receive your payment within 6 working days.”
If I’m not eligible, what can I do?
See here for info on Universal Credit, deferral of tax and VAT payments, loans and grants.
What are my ‘Profits from Self-Employment’?
To work out what figures they will be using to create your average profit, see your past tax returns and look for the line: ‘total taxable profits from this business’. This is the amount after expenses. More info here.
How do they calculate it?
They will take your profit from eligible years of trading – 2016-17 / 2017-18 / 2018-19 – and do the following sum (for example):
Add these together = £53,000
Then divide by 3 to get the yearly average = £17,666.67
Times by 80% = £14,133.34
£14,133.34 divided by 12 to give the monthly average = £1,177.78
You would get £1,177.78 x 3 months = total payment in one lump sum of £3,533.34
(Up to maximum total payment of £7,500, whichever is the lowest.)
If you have not submitted tax returns for all 3 years, it will then calculate on:
Useful Q+A’s from the webinar
Q: When will we know if the government is extending this scheme?
A: The grants will be available for three months in the first instance. If needed the scheme will be extended.
Q: Will any other grant or support like for example an arts council covid-19 emergency fund affect the HMRC claim for self-employed?
A: The grants are taxable, and so businesses that are less affected by coronavirus will report higher taxable income when they come to do their tax returns for 2020-21. For those who abuse the system, HMRC has a wide range of statutory and common law powers to tackle fraud and criminality, which continue to apply.
Q: I was on maternity leave for one of the three financial years, receiving maternity allowance. This has significantly decreased my annual average - can another financial year be considered?
A: To work out your average trading profit HMRC add together all profits and losses for all 3 tax years (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19) that you’ve had continuous trade, then divide by the number of tax years of trading. No pro-rata adjustment will be made if you started trading part way through one of the tax years [or experience a gap in trading profits due to maternity leave].
Claiming Maternity Allowance or taking maternity/paternity/adoption leave does not mean the trade has ceased and therefore should not affect a person’s eligibility for SEISS as long as the individual intends to return to the trade after maternity/paternity/adoption leave. If you’re self-employed but when you apply are taking a break from your trade because of a new baby or adoption, or have done since 6 April 2019, you may still be eligible because HMRC will treat you as still trading. If you claim Maternity Allowance this will not affect your eligibility for the grant.
Q: I’m currently on maternity leave but was going to do 72 hours of work to make ends meet which I now can’t do. Can I apply?
A: If you are claiming Maternity Allowance or taking maternity/paternity/adoption leave you will eligible for SEISS, providing you meet the other criteria and you intend to return to your trade after maternity/paternity/adoption leave.
Q: Are non-UK citizens who have been trading here for 3 years and paying tax, eligible for this support?
A: Yes, provided they meet the other eligibility conditions of the scheme.
Q: If I submit my 2019-2020 tax return before applying for the grant will this be included in the calculation of the 3 months income.
A: Unlike for employees, self-employed income is not reported monthly, but is reported for the entire year at the end of the tax year. This means that the most reliable and up-to-date record we have of self-employed income is 2018-19 tax returns. We would not be able to distinguish genuine self-employed people who started trading in 2019-20 from fake applications from fraudsters and organised criminal gangs. However, those who entered self-employment after this point will still be eligible for other support. For example, the self-employed can benefit from the Government’s relaxation of the earnings rules (known as the Minimum Income Floor) in Universal Credit. Individuals may also have access to a range of grants and loans depending on their circumstances, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the deferral of tax payments.
Q: I work part time and am self employed part time. Will I be eligible to make a claim for the self employed work I can no longer carry out due to coronavirus?
A: If your average self-employed trading profits are no more than £50,000 and make up at least 50% of your total income you may be eligible for this scheme.
Q: If some of the work I usually do can still be done and other work not, so my income has reduced, can I still make a claim?
A: Yes, the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus (Covid-19).
Q: Is the profit Net or Gross expenses?
A: Trading profits are not exactly the same as the gross or net profit. The trading profit is worked out by taking the total trading income (turnover) and deducting any allowable business expenses and capital expenditure, but before deducting tax and National Insurance Contributions. You can find out how HMRC works out your trading profits on Gov.UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-hmrc-works-out-total-income-and-trading-profits-for-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme
Q: I am getting universal credits at the moment - can I apply for the grant?
A: Any Universal Credit claims for earlier periods will not be affected. Please be aware, if you are currently a tax credit claimant and you claim Universal Credit, your tax credit award will be closed from the day before your Universal Credit claim is made. Once you have made a Universal Credit claim it is not possible to go back to tax credits. https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit
Q: Should I apply for universal credit in the meantime?
A: For self-employed people who are struggling now some will be able to access the coronavirus business interruption loans scheme [if they have a business account]. Income tax payments due in July can be deferred until the end of January 2021. We've also temporarily relaxed the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit for self-employed claimants affected by the impact of COVID-19, so their award fully reflects any loss of income. Any grant you receive will be treated as part of your self-employment income and may affect the amount of Universal Credit you get. Any Universal Credit claims for earlier periods will not be affected. Please be aware, if you are currently a tax credit claimant and you claim Universal Credit, your tax credit award will be closed from the day before your Universal Credit claim is made. Once you have made a Universal Credit claim it is not possible to go back to tax credits.
Q: So you can still apply for this if you are still working technically?
A: Yes, self-employed people who receive this grant can continue to work or take on other employment including voluntary work.
Covid-19 lost earnings log
Originally posted on Laura's website on 19.3.2018
We find ourselves in scary times at the moment and everyone working in the arts is feeling it. I hope anyone reading this is doing ok and feels that they have a support network in place - if not, please get in contact and we can have a cup of tea over Skype.
Whilst we are all losing work, we're also hoping that the government or funders will come in with a bailout pot that we can apply to in a bid to try and recoup at least some of our lost earnings. In the meantime, I've made this Lost Earnings Log template to share as a way to keep track of the cancelled/postponed contracts and the financial loss attached to these.
I think it could help each of us to keep a handle on the really rapidly changing situations that we are in, and also to be prepared to apply right away if that bailout pot does appear.
It's super easy to fill out.
There is an intro page at the start to give you tips on how to use it, and then tabs along the bottom for March, April and May. I am hoping that we won't need to monitor this past that point, but if it is needed, I will create another template for later months with a very heavy heart.
Originally posted on Laura's website on 5.3.2018
Here is the under £15,000 template for the new format Arts Council England Project Grants. Download below.
We advise that you always write your application offline and then paste it into Grantium when you are ready to submit.
Check out more of our resources for freelancers working in the Cultural Industries.
We offer 1-to-1 advisory sessions on a sliding scale fee structure for artists, and small organisations. Get in touch and we can make something work.