Rupa Huq asks Secretary of State for help for self-employed

Images above: Rupa Huq MP, Dr Dr Thérèse Coffey MP; Secretary of State for Work & Pensions

Chiswick got a mention in a debate in the new ‘virtual parliament’ yesterday. MPs met in the hybrid part-virtual part-actual parliament cobbled together to create the wherewithal for some sort of democratic discussion while maintaining the rules of social distancing. Some were in the Chamber and some joined the conversation from home. I still can’t get used to the contrast between light, airy living rooms and comfy sofas with potted plants and little homely knick-nacks dotted about and the formality of the Palace of Westminster weighed down by centuries of tradition.

Anyway, they were debating what else but the Coronavirus and what the Government is and should be doing to help people through it.

Help needed for self-employed and people who need help with housing costs

Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central & Acton asked Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions for two specific actions to help people who are self-employed directly and to help Ealing council to give more money to people who need help with housing costs.

Rupa’s question was:

‘I am pleased to hear that the Secretary of State is fixing some of the glitches in universal credit—a system that many of us thought was woefully inadequate, and we have perhaps the biggest unemployment increase since the ’30s on the way. Will the Right Hon. Lady consider the matter in the round and do two small things: relax the savings threshold, because many people losing their businesses find that prohibitive; and replenish some of our reservoirs for discretionary housing payment* in Ealing? A housing crisis was already under way in Ealing, Acton and Chiswick, and it is only getting worse.

*payments made by a local council to help with a shortfall in an individual’s Housing Benefit

Dr Coffey’s answer was:

‘On the question about the self-employed, where people have assets—for example, savings set aside for paying tax—they need to check carefully and go through that as they make their claim, because it will not be considered part of savings with regard to the £16,000 threshold. On housing, we have increased the local housing allowance, and I am sure that the discretionary housing payments have gone to Ealing Council. It is open for councils to come back to central Government if they would like that to be raised substantially’.

A quick reference to explains further her comment on self-employed people having savings set aside to pay tax:

Self-employed and have savings put aside to pay tax? It needn’t decrease the universal credit you get

‘Saving around a third of your profits to pay tax is normally sensible. But if you’re now looking at claiming universal credit, you might think that any business savings in your personal account will affect your eligibility for this support. We’ve checked with the Department for Work and Pensions, which confirmed that while it’d expect business savings to be in a business account, nevertheless “if someone has money in their personal account to be used for business purposes, it won’t be counted towards their capital”.’

However, does warn that you may need to prove the cash is for business purposes. So if this applies to you, make it clear in your application that the savings are business savings, and put a note of it in your online universal credit ‘journal’, where you record any changes to your circumstances. It should then be discounted from the calculations.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Coronavirus deaths in Chiswick

See also: LB Hounslow plans to suspend parking on Turnham Green Terrace to help social distancing