The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has said statistics released 11 June show the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is an “essential lifeline” to many. However, it has said the figures also show that the number of people eligible for the scheme is a “far cry” from what was promised.

The statistics, published by HMRC, show that up to 3.4m of the UK’s five million self-employed are eligible for SEISS. Of these, 2.4m claimed a total of £6.974bn between the 13-31 May. The average award was £2,900 per claimant.

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE said the numbers benefitting from the SEISS are a far cry from the 95% of freelancers the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, initially promised. “There are five million self-employed people in the UK, but of these only up to 3.4m are eligible,” said Chamberlain.

“This is because the scheme does not cover vital groups like freelancers who work through limited companies and the newly self-employed. There are also those whose incomes were over the threshold before the crisis, but who now find themselves with no income at all. We urge the government to do more for these groups, many of whom still have no sign of work coming in.

“For those eligible for SEISS, on the other hand, there is no doubt the scheme is an essential lifeline. The fact that 2.4m people claimed a total of £6.974bn in May is testament to how necessary this support is and what a relief it is to self-employed people across the UK. We would only urge more of the one million people who have not claimed to make use of the scheme if they need it. Struggling self-employed people should not be afraid to claim support: this is not a loan they will need to pay back, but a grant to keep freelancers who have lost their income going during this crisis.”

Chamberlain did however praise the government for extending the scheme to August, but urged it expanded eligibility to more of the 1.6m freelancers who cannot access it.

Chamberlain added: “We recommend the government spends the money that one million have not claimed so far to extend support to these forgotten groups. We are a long way from the end of the Covid-19 crisis, and many more of our vital freelance workforce urgently need more support in the coming months to keep their businesses afloat.”