Dear Chancellor, I’m a freelancer left behind by your broken promises

Jodie McCallum · 25 June 2020

Freelance TV presenter and reporter Jodie McCallum writes an impassioned open letter to the Chancellor about how she’s been let down, and left unsupported by the government through the coronavirus pandemic.

Dear Chancellor,

I’ve been left behind by your broken promises.

My plea to you, Chancellor Rishi Sunak – please stand by your words and do the right thing by providing support for the millions of hardworking taxpayers like me who you’ve excluded from your ‘world-leading’ schemes.

And no, before you say it, Universal Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Bounce Back Loans and your other methods of ‘support’ are NOT enough. Most cannot even access them for a start…

Chancellor, it’s been nearly four months since you came out and promised us that ‘no-one will be left behind’ financially during this crisis.

You seemed genuine in your bold, compelling speech, and I foolishly believed you.

Little did I know that in the weeks to come you were going to exclude me and millions of others from your schemes. You have let me down, Rishi, and it hurts.

Let me introduce myself to you Mr Sunak: I’m Jodie and I’m a freelance TV presenter and entertainment reporter living in London but originally from Glasgow.

I’ve worked incredibly hard to be in the position I am today. I’ve worked since I was 16 and have paid my taxes my whole working life.

Luckily, I’ve never had to rely on benefits. I’m a PAYE Freelancer (and have been for the last five years) that cannot be furloughed and you’ve made me ineligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

HMRC has forced many freelancers like me to be PAYE and get taxed at source. However, I am not an employee of any of the companies that I work for and therefore have no employee rights, as I’m sure you know.

I’m self-employed, the only difference between me and a sole trader is that I’m taxed at source.

I can login to my government gateway account and see exactly how much I earned last year (and the last five years), with a detailed breakdown of what I earned every month and how much tax and National Insurance was deducted.

If I can see this clearly, and HMRC can because they took the tax in the first place, why can’t you include me in SEISS? There is no room for fraud because HMRC have deducted all my taxes for me.

I repeat, I cannot be furloughed. You should never have put the onus onto employers to furlough their freelancers knowing full well that we work ad-hoc shifts and work on a self-employed basis.

Most employers are refusing to furlough freelancers: it is not their fault, it’s yours. 

We’ve tried so hard to get your attention to get you to fix this. We’ve offered you simple solutions: it shouldn’t be our job to do yours for you.

Our stories have been covered in copious amounts of press articles, we’ve been featured in several TV and radio programmes, the Treasury Select Committee has highlighted gaps in your support schemes and offered solutions in a detailed report, money master (and the financial guru of this crisis) Martin Lewis has shown support to our cause, we’ve had ample cross-party political support from MPs, and we’ve had 8,000+ plus signatures on my petition alone with thousands more on others…what more is it going to take? What more do we have to do to get your attention?

We are exhausted. As UK taxpayers we should not have to fight this hard for parity of support.

You’ve made me feel like I’m invisible, like I’m unimportant or a ‘trade-off’ as we were previously described, but let me ask you this – was I important to you when HMRC deducted my taxes? You know, the same taxes you are using to fund the CJRS and SEISS?

How can you have the audacity to compare Universal Credit to 80% of our average monthly wage?

There are many loopholes with UC which means most of the people who have been excluded cannot even receive it anyway, and it’s the same with JSA.

Re: your bounce back loans – why on earth should we have to take out a loan and get into more debt when we’ve paid our taxes like everyone else?

People are already spiralling into debt, Chancellor; it’s already been three months with no support from you. These and your other methods of ‘support’ in no way match that of the 80% of a maximum of £2,500 per month grant that you’ve happily, and rightfully, provided to other taxpayers.

So why won’t you help us? Have you run out of money? It’s not ‘too complicated’ as I have already explained – you could easily figure out what I’d be due with no room for fraud – the full amount is capped at 80% of £2,500 anyway.

And to be clear, everyone who’s been excluded wants 80% of 100% of their average monthly income backdated from1 March as we deserve parity of support. We’ve paid our taxes too.

You can’t just discriminate against us because of how we pay tax: the bottom line is that the tax has been paid and we should therefore have access to SEISS.

I urge you with every bit of passion left in my body to do the right thing. You have the chance to turn this around.

Would you like to look back on your career knowing that you did the absolute best you could? Or would you rather look back knowing you left more than 3 million hardworking taxpayers behind during the biggest global pandemic of our lifetime?

I’ll let you think about that. Really, really think about that. And please, enough with the shameless self-promotion already, you’re just rubbing salt in our deeply cut wounds…

You’ve broken my heart and the hearts of millions of other hardworking taxpayers, Rishi. We’re exhausted, but we’re not giving up. We’re not going away until you right this wrong. So please, treat this as a matter of urgency and do the right thing while you still can.

Follow Jodie on Twitter, along with @ForgottenPAYE and @ExcludedUK and help us make noise by getting involved in the conversation on social media using #ForgottenFreelancers, #ForgottenPAYE and #ExcludedUK.

Take action

There are 3 million people like Jodie who have been unfairly excluded from government support schemes through no fault of their own. Sign Jodie’s petition urging the chancellor to make a u-turn.
Sign the petition