** NEWS: GOVERNMENT MUST SUPPORT EXCLUDED FREELANCERS THIS WINTER. READ THE FULL STORY **
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 have also produced a special Covid-19 page for writers in Wales which is also available as a Welsh-language version).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- Rehab4Addiction has produced a Covid-19 guide for better mental health. You can access it here.
- You can find other mental health support resources on our website.
For those concerned about work:
- Leading playwrights and theatres backed best-practice guidelines we launched to protect writers and the health of the sector during lockdown (find out more here). We are concerned that the backlog of scripts and productions will mean months of no income for writers, so we continue to call for a New Commissions Fund.
- We have welcomed the extension and increase of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) but we continue to campaign for an expansion of SEISS to support those estimated three million freelancers who are falling through the gaps. You can keep up-to-date with developments in our News section.
- WGGB has launched Write On, a free series of online events during lockdown to support writers in their careers. Subjects covered so far include why writers need unions, protecting your work and the art and craft of videogames writing. Find out what sessions we’ve got coming up.
- 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.
- WGGB members are eligible for free and discounted training as part of their membership (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 email@example.com
- We have welcomed the extension and increase of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) but we continue to campaign for an expansion of SEISS to support those estimated three million freelancers who are falling through the gaps.
- The Government has 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. 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 introduced payment holidays for those struggling to make payments during the Covid-19 crisis (until 31 October 2020). You should talk to your mortgage provider about how to arrange this.
- The Government has introduced measures to protect tenants during Covid-19. If you need advice on this issue, 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 with details of changes the Government has made to the self-assessment process. The number is 0800 0159 559 and you can find more information here.
- SOLT and UK Theatre have launched the Theatre Artists Fund to support theatre practitioners during Covid-19. Check the website for details of current/future rounds of funding.
- Fleabag Support Fund in partnership with The Royal Theatrical Fund opens for the fifth round of applications for small crisis grants on 1 November 2020. Find out more.
- Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants are now accepting applications and are particularly keen to support individual practitioners in the creative industries. Find out more. ACE has also opened another round of Developing Your Creative Practice grants.
- 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 two funds that freelancers in Scotland can apply for – the Hardship Fund for Creative Freelancers and the Open Fund: Sustaining Creative Development. Read the latest on WGGB Scotland branch’s Covid-19 lobbying work.
- Our special Covid-19 page for writers in Wales includes sources of funding and this page is also available as a Welsh-language version.
- The Royal Literary Fund (RLF) has sources of support for published authors experiencing financial difficulty, who meet certain criteria. Find out more. You can also read a leaflet RLF has produced 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. It is also administering the Theatre Community Fund.
- 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:
- We have welcomed the extension and increase of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) but we continue to campaign for an expansion of SEISS to support those estimated three million freelancers who are falling through the gaps. 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).
- Join the campaign to #SaveUnionLearning, including FEU Training, which offers free business skills training to members of WGGB and sister creative unions in England. Now more than ever, self-employed creative workers need access to high quality training to support them in their careers.
- 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.
- The TUC has a range of resources on the coronavirus, including ways you can get invovled. Find out more on the TUC website.
- 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.
- Freelancers Make Theatre Work is a collective advocating for the UK theatre workforce. You can get involved by taking part in their Big Freelancer Survey, joining their social media campaign and writing to your MP. More information.
- 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.
- Find out more about our wins for writers during Covid-19, including open letters we have sent to policy-makers, in our campaigns section.