A government scheme to support self-employed workers signed up 440,000 people on its first day at a cost of £1.3bn, according to the Treasury.
The self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) provides workers whose finances have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic with a cash grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits up to a cap of £2,500, backdated to cover the last three months.
Launched this week, more than two weeks ahead of schedule, the scheme is expected to support up to 3.5 million of the UK’s 5.2 million self-employed people.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said: “Britain’s self-employed workers are a crucial part of our economy and will be key in our recovery – which is why we’re doing everything we can to support them.
“I’m pleased to see our world-leading support scheme is already helping so many people, with more than £1.3bn claimed on the first day alone. This money will ensure the self-employed can get through these challenging times,” the chancellor said.
Hundreds of self-employed workers have reported being rejected by HMRC after they applied for the grant. This was usually for becoming self employed within the last year when they needed two years of self-employment records to qualify.
Others have worked as employees for a portion of the last two years and suffered deductions that mean they receive a fraction of the £7,500 maximum backdated grant.
IPSE, the lobby group for consultants and self-employed workers, has campaigned for the scheme to be more flexible and include groups such as limited company contractors and the newly self-employed.