James O'Brien caller excluded from Covid financial help cannot afford heating

5 January 2021, 14:41 | Updated: 5 January 2021, 14:54

By Fiona Jones

This caller who has been excluded from the Government's financial support since March tells James O'Brien she is now at the stage where she cannot afford heating.

With England's third national lockdown underway, the three million people who have been excluded from financial help since March are still ineligible to receive aid in the Chancellor's new package.

Caller Alex from Lewisham told James since the first lockdown she has been campaigning with grassroots organisation ExcludedUK in a fight to gain support for those who have missed out - with no success.

She is a tour guide and as the pandemic hit, she took her tours online meaning she has made 7-8% of her normal income: "I'm just about keeping my head above water but it is only just about."

Alex explained that she is not eligible for Universal Credit either because she has too much in savings which she has to save for tax - and that takes her over the threshold.

Read more: Sir Keir pledges to keep fighting for LBC listener excluded from Covid financial support

She continued: "The Chancellor says that everybody has been helped in some way...the only time I have is a three month mortgage holiday and when that ended my mortgage payments went up.

"It's at the point where I can't really afford to put my heating on properly and I just don't understand why they are being completely blind to our plight."

She told James her theory as to why: "I think they put a plan in to help the minimum number of people they could to get away with it. I think they honestly thought that self-employed people, because we're all individuals, we then wouldn't have a central bloc to come together."

She theorised that the Government "completely" underestimated the might of the self-employed, hence the visibility of ExcludedUK.

Reflecting on Mr Sunak's new package, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told LBC, "To still leave three million taxpayers out in the cold when other people are getting support, there can't be a justification for doing that.

"The Government said it's all too difficult, and there may be issues of fraud, and it said with regard to people who had newly been self-employed that they'd never submitted a tax return - well that's changing because they're all about to submit their tax returns for financial year 19/20."

He continued: "The reason the Government gave is no longer valid and they've just got to address this issue. It's an issue of basic fairness and humanity. How can they go into another year with no support?

"We will end up with a mental health crisis on top of a pandemic here if this issue isn't addressed and addressed quickly."

LBC has raised the issue of the excluded repeatedly over the pandemic, with Nick Ferrari in November putting to the Chancellor a statement from ExcludedUK founder Anneka Hicks that some "abandoned" by the Government have taken their own lives.

After hearing her tearful explanation on how those without financial aid are affected, the Chancellor responded: "I respectfully disagree with the fact that 3m people can't access help."

The chancellor said the "majority self employed" in that group will have benefited from furlough.

Mr Sunak said: "What we've spent is more than anyone else has internationally. The scale of what we have put in place is extraordinarily comprehensive and generous by any international measure."

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