UK’s Covid-19 fund opens as survey reveals huge hit on freelancers

The UK’s Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund has opened for applications after being launched by the British Film Institute (BFI) and The Film & TV Charity, which has also revealed the deep impact of the crisis on the freelance community.

The time-limited fund – applications will remain open for two weeks – offers eligible workers and freelancers up to £2,500 ($3,100) in one-off grants. It has been supported by initial donations totaling £2.5m from Netflix, the BFI, BBC Studios, BBC Content, WarnerMedia and several unnamed individuals.

The Film & TV Charity and the BFI are covering all overheads, with workers across film, TV and cinema now able to apply for grants of between £500 and £2,500 based on need. Applications will close at 18.00 on Wednesday, 22 April.

Alex Pumfrey

93% of freelancers no longer working

The fund’s launch comes as the Film & TV Charity revealed that more than nine in 10 (93%) industry freelancers are no longer working due to the crisis. Three-quarters (74%) are not expected to receive any support since they are either ineligible for the UK government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme or have not been furloughed as PAYE freelancers under the Job Retention Scheme.

Three-quarters (74%) of respondents also said they were very or extremely worried about their income in coming months while nearly half (45%) said they were worried about meeting basic living costs (food, medicine, accommodation).

How to apply & repayable grant scheme

Applications can now be made via The Film & TV Charity’s website, which has also unveiled details of its Covid-19 Film & TV Repayable Grants Scheme. It offers assistance to those waiting for payment from  government-backed schemes, which will not land in worker’s accounts until June.

Alex Pumfrey, CEO of The Film & TV Charity, said: “Unprecedented times call for an exceptional response. The Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund is unique, time-limited and designed to provide financial support where the need is most acute. Our systems will highlight applicants who are experiencing particular distress and our experienced team will respond to those red flags with personal follow-up calls.”

Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, added: “We know a huge number of freelance professionals in our community have been some of the hardest hit during the coronavirus crisis, so we are delighted that the fund is now open for applications. We are also incredibly thankful for the generosity shown by industry partners and individuals who have stepped in so far to support their colleagues.”

The Film & TV Charity, which has supported people working behind the scenes for almost 100 years, also offers an existing Hardship Fund, which offers grants of up to £500 to provide stop-gap support. The charity already provides 24/7 mental health support to the industry, including counselling and legal advice, via the Film and TV Support Line on 0800 054 00 00 (UK).

The BFI is also leading an industry-wide ‘Screen Sector Task Force’ that is looking at the wide-ranging impacts of Covid-19 on the whole industry and its workforce, as well as working closely with the UK government to ensure that all of the ramifications and impacts are considered. Further info can be found here.

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