Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeCOVID-19Covid grants for the rich but not the poor

Covid grants for the rich but not the poor


THE newspapers are full of details about rich people who’ve profited from Covid. Here’s Lord Falconer boasting that the pandemic is ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ for lawyers.

Then there’s Guy Ritchie, who made £59million divorcing Madonna and has another lucrative business making fantasy violent crime capers. The latest, The Gentleman, made £85million. He lives on a 1,000-acre estate valued at £27million but he gets furlough money for 19 staff at one of his other companies, the Fatboy Pub Company.

Other celebrities taking the money are celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who is worth £6.78billion.

However, the civil servants who dish out the cash aren’t always that kind. The ‘support’ staff at HMRC have dismissed my application for the second Self Employment Grant.

News of this slipped under my radar while I was distracted by my health struggles. But according to the compassionate staff at HMRC, it was ‘wildly’ reported in the media. So being ill was no excuse.

While I was getting treatment for a variety of painful and life-threatening conditions – including bowel cancer, pyoderma gangrenosum and deep vein thrombosis – I was struggling to keep my business alive.

Just one of those conditions is tiring enough. Chemotherapy takes its toll on your body. And trying to survive as a self-employed writer is quite taxing. It’s not the work that tires you out – it’s the endless time-wasting, fussing and posturing you have to tolerate. Technology is meant to simplify business but it’s plagued with people who need to over-complicate everything so that they look important.

I can’t handle the mainstream media at the moment. It’s exhausting enough coping with illness and watching egos run rampant in my own industry. I can’t hack watching Robert Peston and chums presenting their long, unhelpful but self-aggrandising questions on TV. Life is too short – especially mine.

None of this cut any ice with ‘Lesley’ who, typing from the comfort of her keyboard, became very judgmental.

Lesley: 1:51pm The scheme is for support if your business has been affected by Covid, as you were in hospital having surgery, which I hope you are all better from, this is not a mitigating reason for not claiming. The Grant was open from July 2020 to November 2020 to submit your claim and this deadline has passed.

My business was affected by COVID. How can Lesley act as judge and jury based on one rapidly typed sentence?

Then Lesley started insinuating that it’s all my own fault.

Lesley: 1:59pm I am unsure as to how from July to November you had never heard one announcement on the television or newspapers regarding the scheme. If you have claimed the first and applied for third you will then know the amount of grant that you would of (sic) been eligible for Mr Booth.

I was aware of the scheme. But I didn’t realise that there had been a second grant. Easy mistake to make, given that there was so much misinformation. I probably assumed that any announcement about the Self Employment grant was them re-announcing the first announcement, in order to wring an ounce more PR from it. Re-announcing is a favourite trick of spin doctors.

Unlike Guy Ritchie and Gordon Ramsay, I desperately need that grant money. It’s hard to work when you’re undergoing chemotherapy but I have tried. Any money I make is taken off my Universal Credit, so it’s not as if I’m sponging off the state.

Still, I’m not a celebrity, which may be why I’m getting the bottom-feeder treatment. Some people really show their colours when you give them power over others’ lives and immunity from consequences.

Finally, to get rid of me, Lesley starts cutting corners.

Lesley: 2:04pm Mr Booth I have not called you a liar once and I have not judged you I have merely stated the facts. There is no appeals process regarding the grants.

Oh, yes there is, as I subsequently discovered. Still as the ChatServant said:

Lesley: 2:18pm I do not need to volunteer information.’

Next I tried phoning. The phone operator didn’t give me her name but she was much more sympathetic and passed my case on. Her apparent kindness gave me false hope.

From the shelter of his secretive lair, the mysterious ‘M Rodgers’ imperiously informed me that since the SEISS2 grant had been ‘wildly’ reported in the media, I had no excuse for missing out on it.

I don’t remember a time when everyone was going nuts over SEISS2. Do you?

Who knows? The only thing we can be certain of is that he wouldn’t talk to Gordon Ramsay or Guy Ritchie or Philip Green like that!

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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