Covid 19 virus

Covid-19 advice for WGGB members

** NEWS: Leading playwrights and theatres back our Covid-19 manifesto. Read the full story here **

We know that our members are concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on their health and their working lives. We want to reassure you that as your union we’re here to support you and to give you the advice and information you need during this difficult time.

You can see a list of useful resources below – this list will be updated regularly, so please bookmark this page and keep checking back.

We will also be stepping up our campaigning work on your behalf – talking to broadcasters, theatres, industry bodies, policy makers and working with other entertainment unions to ensure that writers’ rights are firmly on the agenda in the coming months (for details of how you can get involved, see the Online activism section below).

Our office arrangements during the crisis

All WGGB staff are able to work remotely, and will be doing so until further notice so we can protect their health and safety, and to ensure that the union will continue to operate its services to members as usual. We therefore ask during this time that you email our staff rather than phone the office and you can find individual contact emails, plus a list of the different services our staff provide (including support and advice) here. If you are unable to email please do phone the office on 020 7833 0777 and leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Online joining and renewal of WGGB subscriptions via our website will continue as usual. Online joining and renewal of subscriptions via cheque or direct debit may experience a delay, but we will aim to keep this to a minimum. Applications to the WGGB pension scheme will continue to be processed as usual, although there may be a delay.

As a result of the Government lock-down we are unable to send out membership cards. You can still use your membership number to access exclusive member discounts. You will find this number on email correspondence from us but if you are unsure what your membership number is, please email rose@writersguild.org.uk

For those concerned about their health:

  • Access the NHS advice pages for regular updates
  • Public Health England offers further advice
  • Mental health charity Mind has produced advice for those feeling anxious or worried about the virus.
  • Anxiety UK has also produced advice for those feeling anxious.
  • Film and TV Charity and the Big White Wall have launched a mental health community, free to those who work behind-the-scenes in film and TV. You can receive support in groups or one-to-one chats, with peers or trained guides, access self-help courses and self-assessment tools to enable you to track your progress. Find out more here.
  • You can find other mental health support resources on our website.

For those concerned about work:

  • Leading playwrights and theatres have backed best-practice guidelines we launched on 12 May 2020 to protect writers and the health of the sector during lockdown. Find out more here.
  • Creative Industries Federation has brought together advice from across the sector which it is updating regularly. You can find it here.
  • SOLT/UK Theatre have a free helpline for theatre professionals.
  • Leading theatrical charities have come together to support those working in the industry during the crisis and have produced the Theatre Support Info website with advice on work, mental health, financial support and more.
  • Arts Council England has pledged to support the arts sector during this time and freelancers working within it. You can find their latest information here and details of funding for freelancers in the section on finances, below.
  • FEU Training is free to all WGGB members and is expanding its online programme of training during the crisis. There will be more webinars, e-courses, online tutorials and interactive learning activities offering business skills for creative freelances. Find out more.
  • ScreenSkills has launched a free package of remote and interactive training, online talks and masterclasses to support freelancers in the film and TV industries. Find out more.
  • During lockdown, BBC Academy is offering WGGB members access to its free series of Zoom courses for freelancers, on a range of topics including podcasting, PC skills and building a social media following. Details of how to sign up will be featured in the WGGB ebulletin to members. Email enquiries to AcademyEvents@bbc.co.uk
  • The Film and TV Charity Support line is available 24/7 on 0800 054 00 00. It offers emotional support, advice and also support grants if you’re experiencing significant financial difficulties.
  • Citizens Advice Bureau has web and phone support for people during the crisis, including online resources, a national helpline and how to access online and phone support in your local area. Find out more here.
  • The Royal Television Society has an advice page for freelancers working in the industry.

For those concerned about finances:

  • WGGB has a Welfare Fund for members experiencing urgent financial difficulty. Full details and an application form. The fund needs urgent donations, so if you would like to make a donation to the fund and help WGGB members who may be struggling during the crisis, please email nadine@writersguild.org.uk
  • Applications for the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are now open. You can apply for grants worth 80% of your average monthly profits up to £2,500 (apply here). We welcomed the Government’s package of financial support to help the self-employed during the crisis (see our response here) and we are now lobbying hard, with our sister creative unions, on behalf of those creative workers who are not covered by the Government’s support measures. Read our letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak here.
  • The Government has also made some temporary changes to the benefit system to make it easier for self-employed people to claim Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. Self-employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Satutory Sick Pay (£94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks). Read up on the full Government advice. The website Entitled To has a handy benefits calculator on its website, plus special information about state benefits and the Covid crisis. You can find it here.
  • The Government has announced three-month mortgage payment holidays for those struggling to make payments during the Covid-19 crisis. You should talk to your mortgage provider about how to arrange this.
  • In addition, the Government has announced that it will be passing legislation to protect people who rent their homes from eviction. Housing charity Shelter has full information and a helpline on its website.
  • HMRC has set up a special helpline for self-employed people concerned about meeting tax payments during this time. The number is 0800 0159 559 and you can find more information here.
  • The BBC has set up a fund to provide temporary support for its community of freelances who are experiencing hardship as a result of work being cancelled and loss of income caused by the Covid-19 crisis. PAYE freelancers engaged by BBC Public Service can request a net payment of up to £1,000 for the months of April and May 2020 from the fund, while gross paid sole trader freelancers eligible for SEISS scheme can request a one-off payment up to £1,000. The fund will be open for applications until 31 May. Applicants must have the right to work in the UK and their hardship must be related to the impact of Covid-19. All applications will be answered within five days. More information and applications
  • Writers in Scotland who became self-employed recently (on or after 6 April 2019) can apply for one-off grants of up to £2,000 from the Scottish Government’s Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund.
  • Arts Council England has launched £20 million of funding for individuals, including creative freelancers, to sustain them and their work during the crisis. Full details.
  • The Society of Authors and partner organisations including ALCS have established a £330,000 emergency fund to support authors through the crisis. Find out more here.
  • Creative Scotland has announced three funding programmes to sustain and support the country’s creative community during the crisis. Find out more.
  • Arts Council Wales has a Covid-19 information page, including funding support.
  • Freelance writers working in radio can apply to the Radio Academy Fund, which is giving grants of up to £1,000 to individuals working in the sector who have been affected by Covid-19. It has been created by a group of organisations including the Radio Academy, BBC, Audible and Audio UK. Find out more here.
  • WGGB members played a leading role in fighting for Public Lending Right in the UK and this means that authors are paid from Government funding when their books are borrowed from public libraries. To qualify for payments, applicants must register their books, audio books, e-books and e-audio books and you can find full information on how to do this on the British Library website.
  • If you are a member of WGGB you are eligible to join the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society as a lifetime member for free, and once you have done so you can register to receive the twice yearly royalty payments the ALCS distributes on behalf of 70,000 writers. If you are a writer of published novels, short stories, poetry, journalism, non-fiction books, including text books, manuals and guides, or if you are a TV or radio scriptwriter, you are eligible to receive these royalties. Full information on the ALCS website.
  • Writers Digital Payments was set up by WGGB and the Personal Managers’ Association in 2015 to ensure TV writers receive royalties when their work is shown on BBC iPlayer or ITV Player. It has paid out over £2.75 million to scriptwriters since it was launched in 2015 and if you have written for BBC or ITV you will receive these payments automatically. Find out more.
  • The Royal Theatrical Fund provides support for people who have worked in the entertainment industry – this includes financial support, but also visits and phone calls and advice on benefits and debt.
  • The Turbine Theatre charity is crowdfunding to provide financial support for creatives and others freelancers working in theatre. Find out how you can apply to the fund and make a donation here.

Covid-19 online activism:

  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMSC) wants to hear your views on the impact of Covid-19 on the creative industries. It has opened an inquiry and is inviting submissions of evidence (deadline 19 June 2020). You can do this online here.
  • The Government listened to our calls and those of other unions and bodies representing the creative industries and self-employed when it announced a package of financial support for freelancers on 26 March 2020 (read our response here). We are now stepping up our lobbying work and alongside our sister creative unions have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak highlighting the plight of creative workers not currently covered by Government support. Read the letter here.
  • Alongside sister organisations in the creative industries, we have written a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling for the establishment of a UK Creators Council to assist the Government in its Covid-19 response to supporting the creative industries. We’ll keep you posted on the Government’s response and how you can get involved.
  • Support the #NoCreativeLeftBehind campaign we have signed up to with our sister entertainment unions. Take a photo of yourself with your job title, post it on social media with the caption #NoCreativeLeftBehind, tag your local MP and ask them to take part (find out who your local MP is here). 
  • Thank you to our members who took part in a Government consultation on the decriminalisation of the BBC Licence Fee. We believe the BBC has been doing vital work during the Covid-19 crisis, from providing up-to-date news and advice to supporting the education of children unable to attend school. We will continue to Back the BBC and keep you posted on ways you can get involved.
  • The TUC has a range of resources on the coronavirus, including ways you can get invovled. Find out more on the TUC website.
  • The Covid-19 Mutual Aid Network has been formed across the UK, providing support for those in self-isolation. Volunteers are holding meetings online via WhatsApp and Facebook groups. The best way to find out the nearest local group to you is to search under ‘Covid Mutal Aid’ on Facebook.
  • Raising Films aims to bring about change to ensure that people in the film and TV industry who want to have a family can do so. They have launched the #RaisingOurFutures initiative and want your views on how you’d like the sector to look, post Covid-19. Find out more.
  • TV Talent Manager and broadcasting, entertainment, communications and theatre union Bectu have backed a #ForgottenFreelancers video highlighting those self-employed people who are falling through the gaps of Government support and are encouraging people to share it online to raise awareness of the issue. View and share the video here.

Photo: Shutterstock.com/NadezdaMurmakova

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