Well, it’s been almost seventeen weeks since the two-week quarantine began. Still no help at all forthcoming from the UK government for all those excluded from any help for lost self-employed earnings. The same government that proclaimed that we were “all in this together” and “no one will be left behind”.
The creative industries are especially damaged. The government have given a bailout for bricks and mortar of theatre and the administrators, but not for the freelancers from lighting, sound designers, costume designers and makers, set designers and builders, scenic artists, makeup artists, directors, producers, puppeteers and puppet makers, milliners, stage managers, theatre photographers, musicians, composers, choreographers, dancers, singers, dramaturgs, writers, playwrights and… have I forgotten anyone… Oh, yes, us performers.
We have all been left behind. Just check out hashtags such as #ExcludedUK and #FreelancersMakeTheatreWork. Even Martin Lewis, the ‘Money Saving Expert’ from television is on board and trying to help persuade the government to provide some parity in support and help for those it left behind.
There are three million people that have been excluded from help and slipped through the cracks across many different industries. The excuse from the government is that it is too complicated to help everybody. Strange that it isn’t too difficult to administer when it comes to taking money away in the form of taxation.
My side gig re-started on the 10th of July. Just part-time retail. I took it on originally as a top-up to my acting work. I used to earn more money for my performing and roleplay work in one morning than I do in retail for an entire week, but the fact that the hours fit around doing my real work made doing a soul-sucking job almost tolerable… Almost.
I am not yet able to return to my real work because performance or roleplay work isn’t safe yet. Yet, generating profit for a majority shareholder in someone else’s private equity company makes one somehow superhumanly immune to viral infection.
I guess I should, at least, be grateful that I was furloughed, so I got almost £8 per week more than I would have got if I were unemployed and on Job Seekers Allowance. Some people on the ExcludedUK forum have had absolutely zero income since lockdown and are having to eat into their savings, pensions, or even having to beg and borrow just to get by and survive this crisis.
Some of the stories I have heard and read are heartwrenching and devastating. People are losing their businesses and homes. Some are at the end of their tether and threatening hunger strike. Even considering ending their own lives. And still, our government do nothing.
Now I am back at work. In the job that was just a top-up to my real work. I have the added bonus now that I am also having to put my health and life at risk every time I go in. Even more poignant since the government decided that retail workers could be protected, by the public wearing of facemasks, from tomorrow, the 24th July 2020. Though it appears that it is unlikely that anybody, not the stores, who care about nothing but profit, nor our police force are likely to enforce the new rulings.
Anyway, it is all a step much too little too late. Especially for those who have sadly already passed away. Data has shown that “The (Covid-19) death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75 per cent higher amongst men and 60 per cent higher amongst women than in the general population”, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on July 13th 2020. ‘Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis’.
I’m looking for work that I can do from home now, whilst the creative industries recover. If they recover. But I don’t hold much hope for being successful in finding work to do from home, other than my writing, because everybody, with any sense, is looking to do exactly that too.