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Self-employed artists left out of government's Covid-19 support packages, union warns

SELF-EMPLOYED artists are being left out of the government’s support packages for workers hit by the coronavirus crisis, a union has warned. 

Artists’ Union England (AUE) says its members, who are largely low-paid artists involved with community-based projects, have seen most of their income for the rest of the year dry up.

“Since the coronavirus crisis, most [of our members] have had all of their work cancelled for the rest of 2020 at least,” said the union’s national co-chair, Zita Holbourne. 

“This includes short-term contracts, community arts projects, exhibitions and commissions,  with consequences resulting in no paid work for the foreseeable future and no likelihood of being able to sell any work.”

Despite being self-employed, many artists are not eligible for the government’s emergency fund because they also work for an employer to supplement the precarious nature of their work in the arts, the union said. 

The £3 billion-a-month package of support, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month, only applies to workers who make the majority of their income from self-employment. 

AUE said it has sent three letters to the Chancellor, complete with case studies, but had not received a response. 

One freelance artist, who also works separately for an employer, said that all of her exhibitions had been cancelled. 

“As a result, even though I have lost any income I could have expected from my art practice — definitely for the rest of this year, but maybe for longer — I do not qualify for any of the measures that the government has proposed,” she said. 

The union is calling on the government to take into consideration the circumstances of artists and ensure that it provides them with proper assistance during the crisis.

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