“Self-employed are the UK’s forgotten through the pandemic.”
Community member, Melody Schroeder, gives her personal perspective on what it feels like to be one of the forgotten self-employed.
When people think of the self-employed, I think some people get two different ideas in their minds. I certainly did as a 20 year old. One image is of the wealthy director. The other, the arty flighty creative, living vicariously and following their creative urges. Either of those would have been fine by me.
To cut a long story short, I came out of university and drama college with a mountain of debt…and bailiffs knocking at my door. One lot of debt was from University and another lot courtesy my mother, who turned out to be a criminal (a very long story for another time).
I never remember making a conscious decision to be self-employed or another word for it; “poor”. I just knew that age 20, I needed to repay this debt or risk losing my home. No one was going to help me – nor did I expect them to.
I remember a series of jobs, including everything from waitress, to dressing up as a pint of Guinness on game days at Twickenham, to dancer/singer jobs at Madame Tussaud’s, to working at a dating agency. All of this work was a mix, some PAYE and some “self – employed “. I wasn’t fussy…I just wanted and needed to work.
One day whilst bemoaning my worries over my still shallow pockets, despite working almost 24/7 in 5 jobs, a school friend told me she had been trained by actors in a form of “role playing”. Pen in hand, I took down the details of the company and before long, I was trialed, at a hospital, where actors where playing patients in an exam for students, and I was a moped up fake blood on fake arms. I couldn’t concentrate on my acting career and everything centred around survival.
One thing led to another and I went from role playing for the NHS to facilitating, to teaching empathy compassion and all manner of communications skills to all medical level professionals, the Police and the Armed Forces.
All this was and still is as a self-employed worker.
“Due to a lack of understanding and misrepresentation, many people presume self-employed people are playing the system or at worst, that we’re tax dodgers fiddling the system. Had a union like Community not existed for us when coronavirus hit, that perception may have persisted and the government wouldn’t have been forced to offer us support package us through the earlier part of the pandemic.”
“Sometimes I’ve heard it said that ‘even self-employed people need a union’. I disagree. Especially self-employed people need a union.”