What cultural education freelancers need now

25 March 2020

On the 25 March the Cultural Learning Alliance gathered a snapshot of how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting cultural education freelancers.

This is a summary of our findings.

Freelancers are absolutely essential to the cultural sector’s ability to offer cultural learning opportunities to all children and young people. Most of our major institutions use these individuals for the majority of their delivery, and the skills, expertise and relationships with young people are often based within this workforce.

Contracts cancelled

Many of the issues facing cultural education freelancers are similar to those faced by all freelancers in our sector. Contracts with schools and with arts organisations have been cancelled for the immediate future and well into the autumn. Most have no work now on their books.

Some arts organisations are honouring current contracts and paying for work due to be done in March. Schools much less so. Although some schools are still open, it is not really possible for freelancers to continue working with them.

Postponement of work is, in effect, lost income as it leaves an immediate cashflow problem, and will take the place of future paid work.

Universal credit eligibility

Many freelancers are not eligible for Universal Credit, and, where they are, it is only a fraction of their living costs.

  • Freelancers with over £16,000 put aside for tax bills, cannot apply for universal credit
  • Freelancers saving for a house deposit, with savings over £16,000, cannot apply for universal credit
  • Individuals who have a part-time PAYE contract are not eligible for lost income from their self-employed work

Using digital platforms

Some teachers are able to deliver individual lessons over digital platforms, but there are safeguarding issues here – with schools and local authorities unable to pass on student’s personal information. This digital model only works for some students – others with different needs cannot use these models and so disabled young people are disproportionately affected.

Support from Arts Council England

Arts Council England’s swift response and strong communication is appreciated – but colleagues fear that this is only a short-term solution and there will be no funds to build work in the new landscape. The small grants will also not enable freelancers to meet living costs.

Music Hubs and Arts Council England Bridges have been strong and regular employers of freelancers, and much of their offer is now on hold.

Urgent and immediate provision needed

There is significant and acute fear and anxiety in this workforce. They need immediate reassurance and to feel recognised and heard.

There has been conflicting advice and differing responses from arts and cultural organisations. Some colleagues delivering front-line youth services, or local authority work are feeling unsure as to whether they have critical worker status, and are very concerned about the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable young people.

All colleagues who responded to us are calling on government to make urgent and immediate provision for freelancers that puts them on an equal footing with employed peers.

What have we missed?

Please get in touch with anything missing from this summary: