Cultural Hardship Fund for Freelancers
Manchester City Council and HOMEmcr have recently announced a new fund for freelancers affected by COVID-19 called The Cultural Hardship Fund. Details on this fund, eligibility and how to apply are below. Should you need any support from The Sharp Project in applying for the fund please contact us on email. The grant scheme will be live and open to applications from 1 February 2021.
In March 2020, the lights were dimmed on Manchester’s Arts and Culture sector, with theatres, libraries, museums and arts centres being amongst the first to close their doors to the public at the start of the pandemic.
With the nation in another lockdown, the future is uncertain for many cultural organisations and the freelancers who work with them. The Savannah Wisdom Foundation has created a discretionary fund to support freelancers working in the creative and cultural sectors who are facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The charity is making up to £500,000 available in grants of £1,500 to individual freelancers.
The fund is designed to assist those whose freelance work has been lost or disrupted because of COVID-19 and who are experiencing hardship because of:
- Reduced demand for, or capacity to deliver, their services
- The part of the sector they work in is temporarily unable to trade (due to local/national lockdown measures, social distancing requirements or loss of trade)
The fund is available to freelancers within the arts, cultural and creative industries in Manchester (including: music, theatre, dance, combined arts, visual arts, museums, literature, creative industries, heritage culture and heritage, and whose work has direct creative/cultural outcomes) who are able to demonstrate the following:
- Freelance work has been lost or disrupted because of COVID-19
- Current monthly income (before tax) of less than £1,400, or £1,900 for those with dependants
- At least 50% working time was spent, or 50% income was derived, from freelance employment in the arts, cultural and creative industries sector in the period April 2019 to March 2020*
- Resident of, or business based in, Manchester
New entrants to freelance work in the sector are also eligible if you can provide details of 8 weeks(5 weeks for disabled applicants) of relevant freelance work during the period January 2019 to March 2020.
You may still be eligible if you live in Greater Manchester but can evidence your freelance work is primarily in Manchester.
By freelancer we mean:
- Individual freelance sole trader
- Company director of a limited company or partner within legally constituted partnership, whose earnings are predominantly derived from their company’s dividends and who does not receive a salary from the company
How to Apply
To qualify for the Culture Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers you will be required to provide evidence of your professional work in the sector to support your application, including details of referees that can be contacted.
Manchester City Council and HOME are working with the Savannah Wisdom Foundation to assist the application and decision-making process and the review panel is made up of council officers and staff at HOME.
All applications will be considered on an individual basis and payment of the grant is at the discretion of the review panel.
The grant scheme will be live and open to applications from 1 February 2021.
A data sharing agreement is in place between all the parties to ensure that your personal information is managed safely and confidentially.
A fixed single grant amount of £1,500 is available per individual.
Grants will be awarded up to the point when the total amount available for scheme has been allocated.
Applications will be processed on a first come first served basis and in order of receipt from the date of launch up to the point that the fund amount is fully allocated.
What you will need
You will need to provide the following evidence to support your application:
- Proof of address, for example a council tax or utilities bill
- Bank statement for the account you wish to receive the grant into
- Bank statement showing personal savings
- Evidence of cancelled contracts for freelance work in the creative and cultural sector due to COVID-19
- A complete CV – Download the our CV template – showing previous 15 months of jobs as a freelancer in the creative and cultural sector, or at least 8 weeks (5 weeks for disabled applicants) if new to the sector, from 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2020
- Two professional references in the creative and cultural sector
- If you have been declined for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme you will need to attach evidence of this
Help with completing the application form
If you need support completing the application form you can contact the dedicated helpline 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday on 0161 523 0444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will not be eligible for the Cultural Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers if you:
- Have received funding from the Government’s Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
- Are a full-time student
- Do not live in or have a business in Manchester (unless you are a resident of Greater Manchester and can evidence your freelance work is primarily in Manchester)
- Have received more than £2500 in other arts COVID-19 hardship related funds
- Cannot demonstrate freelance employment in the sector including evidence of at least 8 weeks of paid freelance employment in the sector (or 5 weeks for disabled applicants)
- Have £6,000 or more in savings (unless you have savings above this threshold specifically to contribute towards your tax liability for the financial year)
- Have trading profits are above £30,000 per year or £30,000 per working company director or partner
Advice if you claim benefits
This grant may form part of your taxable income and may affect any benefits you receive. Please read the guidance specific to different benefits.
The grant is a charitable donation and will not count towards your income for Universal Credit.
Successful applicants should record the grant in their journal as ‘Cultural Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers – Grant’.
Tax Credits, JSA or ESA
For applicants in receipt of support from Tax Credits, JSA (Job Seekers allowance) or ESA (Employment and Support Allowance), a grant from the Cultural Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers is likely to be classed as income and earnings.
Please be aware if this grant payment takes you over your permitted savings threshold and seek advice from your benefit provider on how the grant will impact your benefits.
When seeking advice, you should describe the grant as: A charitable donation which is a one-off payment providing a hardship grant to support people impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting loss of work.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support
The grant payment will not affect your eligibility for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support assessed by Manchester City Council, unless it takes your total savings and capital over the £6,000 threshold.
Please be aware that other GM Authorities may take a different approach. You might want to seek advice from your Local Authority on how they will treat this grant. When seeking advice, you should describe the grant as: A charitable donation which is a one-off payment providing a hardship grant to support people impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting loss of work.
DLA and PIP
For disabled applicants, support from DLA (Disability Living Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payments) are not affected by this grant.