A DESPERATE plea has come from Bracknell’s self-employed community calling for more government support amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged all non-essential businesses to close down in order to contain the spread of the illness.

READ MORE: Bracknell MP James Sunderland gives update on support for self-employed

Measures have been announced to financially support company employees in the past week but fewer reassurances have been given to those who are self-employed.

MPs are debating the financial package which could go out to support those who need help in parliament today, but the lack of guidance so far has made life difficult for a number of self-employed business owners. 

Derek Hawley, who runs Des-ign Decor, a family painters and decorators, had three months of bookings wiped out after being forced to close.

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The Easthampstead man’s family has been hit particularly hard as his daughter, who is a self-employed hairdresser, has also seen her bookings cancelled.

Local Berkshire:

His wife has also been let go by a Bracknell-based art supplies firm.

Mr Hawley told the News: “It is an awful time for everyone at the moment.

“My concern is I don’t know how long this is going to go on.”

Mr Hawley’s business was almost forced to shut down two years ago after the decorator got sepsis following an operation on his knee.

This left him struggling to walk and his business has only just got up-and-running again, but now he fears the virus lockdown will “wipe out” his firm.

He added: “I don’t think the government is doing anything at the moment to help the self-employed.

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“We can’t get through to anyone to find out what help there is.

“We have still got to put food on the table.”

Local Berkshire:

Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate 15 per cent of workers are self-employed -- around five million people in the UK.

Stories of self-employed people having to close down their Bracknell Forest businesses are becoming commonplace now.

My Dogs Club is another Bracknell-based company whose owner Roxy Davies told the News her business has had to shut in these uncertain times.

The firm offers dog training and behaviour support to dog owners but she said the dog-training industry is trying to pull together at this “tricky time”.

Local Berkshire:

Jem Piggot, who runs an online gift shop and her husband, a plumber from Priestwood, are both self-employed.

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They have had to close their businesses after being forced to isolate.

Bracknell and Ascot’s Slimming World consultants are all self-employed and have had to close all 16 of their local groups in response to the lockdown.

Some measures have been announced to support businesses in the past week, including:

  • The deferral of VAT payments until the end of June
  • Cash grants to small businesses
  • A 12-months business rates holiday for retail, leisure and nursery businesses

But for several Bracknell-based childminders, these actions do not go far enough.

Many self-employed workers will have to rely on Universal Credit payments of around £94 a week while still paying bills.

Andrea Hathaway, also from Easthampstead, has seen her childminding business close because of the lockdown.

She told the News: “Our insurance companies are not helping, we have been told to apply for Universal Credit.

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“This is not enough, it doesn't cover a day’s earnings, let alone a week and even if you try, making a new claim at the moment is nearly impossible.

“We have bills, we need food, we need effective support. Employees are getting at least 80 per cent of their income.

“We pay tax and national insurance, surely HMRC can work out a similar package to that?

“I want to be here for my families when this is over, I want to continue as a childminder but I need to be able to sustain my business in this uncertain time.

“I don't think the government is at fault, I don't feel resentment nor am I casting blame as I know this will hopefully be resolved as they work through this challenge but I’ve never been unemployed -- it’s scary.”