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Freelance sector needs "shot in the arm"

22 June 2021

Freelancer body IPSE has warned that many self-employed workers in the UK have been "financially scarred" as a result of the pandemic and it says the sector needs more support to get back on its feet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK's freelance workforce, with at least 700,000 people leaving self-employment altogether in the past year. At the same time, over one million freelancers have had to borrow money to get by during the pandemic.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) is calling for a "shot in the arm" stimulus package to help freelancers get back on their feet. It has suggested that particular groups should be targeted - including limited company directors (who have so far been excluded from support) and those in the events and creative sectors.

The latest research by IPSE shows that many freelance workers are still financially vulnerable:

  • 40% of freelancers surveyed say they are not financially prepared for the future;
  • 37% are worried they will not be able to find work as the economy opens up;
  • 58% say they are also struggling with the irregularity of their income.

Previous IPSE research has shown that the pandemic pushed over one million freelancers into debt. One in four freelancers (23%) took on credit card debt to get by during the peak of the pandemic, another one in seven (14%) went into their overdrafts, while 27% used up all or most of their savings.

"The pandemic has left the freelance sector deeply financially scarred, driving hundreds of thousands out of its ranks and pushing millions more into debt," said Derek Cribb, IPSE ceo. "So far, the easing of restrictions has had a clear and positive impact, but the freelance sector has been seriously and structurally undermined and it is not enough. The delay to the easing of restrictions is also a major blow.

"Freelancers are one of the most productive and dynamic sectors of the UK workforce, offering vital flexible expertise to businesses up and down the country. For this reason, they have historically always been vital to economic recovery after downturns. This is an extreme and unusual case, however, where freelancers were disproportionately exposed to the financial damage of the pandemic. To get on their feet and play their crucial role in the economic recovery, they will need a shot-in-the-arm stimulus package."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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