CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak’s offer of grants to see the self-employed through the coronavirus crisis has been called a “welcome, if limited” boost to small business.

The government will up to £2,500 a month in grants to freelancers affected by the pandemic.

The payments will be worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the past three years.

But the money may not arrive until June and there was nothing for those who have only gone self-employed recently, or who operate as limited companies.

Southampton-based Garry Lee, chair of the insolvency body R3’s Southern and Thames Valley committee, said: “Even without the current coronavirus outbreak, self-employed people and sole traders often have unpredictable income levels, making it harder for many to save for a rainy day.

“The government’s announcement is a welcome, if limited, step towards evening out the support available for workers across the economy.

“The limitations do stand out. The self-employed will have a sizeable gap to bridge between now and June when the help will actually be available. That could be too long to wait for those with no safety net.

“There are quite a few gaps in the support: for people who have only recently started working for themselves or who pay themselves through dividends, there may be no help at all.”

Mr Lee, senior manager in the recovery and restructuring services department at accountancy and financial services firm Smith and Williamson in Southampton, added: “Anyone who is in financial difficulty or starting to see signs it may be around the corner should seek advice from a professional as soon as possible.”

Self-employed Hayley Griffith, founder of Gosport-based Creatively Hayley, handling communications for the maritime and shipping industries, said: “On the face of it, it seems to be a fair outcome – it should help my freelancer husband. For me, however, I don’t qualify as my business is only three months old. So mixed feelings if I’m honest.”

Nicola Bailey, Dorset development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is a time of national emergency, and it is very welcome that the government has listened to FSB and responded with a multi-billion-pound package to support the most financially vulnerable entrepreneurs, and to do so through the self-assessment system.”

She added: “Although the deal is not perfect, the government has moved a very long way.

“This is an incredibly challenging situation for everyone. While the healthcare response is paramount, overcoming the economic disruption also requires a speedy response in the interests of jobs and future growth.”

She announcement “will give hope to many hard-working, self-employed entrepreneurs, and it is important that the scheme is ready on-time and delivered as soon as possible”, she said.

“As this will be run through self-assessment, it is vital that any late filers submit their 2018-2019 return, right now, or they risk missing out,” she added.