Half of creative freelancers borrowing money to survive COVID-19 crisis

15 May 2020

Half of people working in the creative industries have been forced to borrow money during the COVID-19 crisis to survive, a new Bectu survey has found.

Nearly 3000 people working in the creative industries took part in the survey asking them what government support they have managed to access during the crisis.

People were asked: “To survive the lockdown, which of the following measures have you been forced to take?” Close to a quarter (23%) said they have used their overdraft, 21% reported using a credit card and 5% said they have taken out a loan.

As well as formal forms of borrowing, 23% of respondents also reported asking their families for money and over a third (36%) are using money set aside for tax bills to live on while their workplaces are closed.

The findings reveal that many film, TV, theatre, live events and arts freelancers have access to extremely limited support and are being forced into debt or relying on charity to get through the crisis.

The survey was completed by people working in film, TV, theatre, commercials, live events touring, art galleries, music venues and cinemas.

Only 33% of people who reported themselves as PAYE freelancers reported being furloughed. Meanwhile, only 40% of respondents who reported themselves as operating as a limited company or sole trader believe they will qualify for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme which opened on Wednesday 13 May.

When looked at separately, 82% of people operating as limited companies said they didn’t think they could access the SEISS and 45% of sole traders said they wouldn’t be able to access it either.

Other measures that people reported they are considering to survive the lockdown included 11% considering leaving their industries and 11% have also defaulted on rent and other bills.

The results emerged as the government has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until October.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:

“These findings demonstrate there are huge numbers of people working in the creative industries who still can’t access financial support.

“Despite the launch of these schemes many of these individuals have not been paid for several months and have no idea how much work will be available as the lockdown is lifted.

“Bectu is deeply concerned about the impact that this will have on these individuals’ mental health and their families. While it is welcome news that the furlough scheme has been extended the Treasury must recognise that there are many people who are yet to receive a single penny of government support and are now truly desperate for assistance. It is demoralising and unfair that these people are continuing to wait for assistance when other parts of the economy have been able to access help as soon as they needed it.”