A Liverpool City Region wide scheme aimed at helping people improve their finances has been expanded to support the self-employed through the Coronavirus crisis.

While many are now covered by the Government’s COVID-19 financial support packages for the self-employed, there are still huge numbers of entrepreneurs slipping through the cracks and struggling to manage financially.

Liverpool City Region is launching a vital lifeline for local entrepreneurs who need support and guidance in managing their personal finances to weather the current crisis, through the Better Off Finance programme.

Better Off Finance has now been expanded to offer practical support and advice to the self-employed in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

The move comes as £250k funding was made available for the programme by Building Better Opportunities via the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Entrepreneurs who have been critically impacted by the pandemic will now be able to access advice from a dedicated Better Off Finance Key Worker who can support them in accessing the best welfare support for them.

This includes advice around Universal Credit and other legacy benefits like tax credits, housing benefits and council tax benefits.

The expert team will also be able to offer practical advice and guidance on negotiating arrangements around other personal finances.

Leading Liverpool-based social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, is lead partner of Better Off Finance which brings together partners from across the City Region, including Citizens Advice and RAISE, to deliver support.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “These are unprecedented times where many self-employed individuals have, understandably, found themselves in a critical financial position. Particularly those who may have fallen through the gaps in the Government’s emergency support packages, for example if they have previously paid themselves through dividends or not yet been able to access the income support scheme.

“Expanding Better Off Finance support to the self-employed will not only be paramount in protecting the livelihoods of hundreds of entrepreneurs across the region, as well as their immediate financial security, but consequently in safe-guarding our local economy as these individuals are able to continue offering their goods and services in the long-term.”

O’Carroll also stresses the importance for those who are already in receipt of benefits to seek advice and check before they apply for Universal Credit.

She added: “It you are considering applying for Universal Credit but are already in receipt of other benefits, then we would urge you to reach out for advice and complete a ‘better off calculation’ first, to see how your current payments might be affected. You might not necessarily be better off.

“Through the Better Off Finance programme our partners – your local Citizen’s Advice – are on hand to help you navigate your way through this process and can also help in negotiating other arrangements around your personal finances.”

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority also backed the scheme and offered its support in securing the all-important expansion for the region’s entrepreneurs.

Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram

Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, says: “After protecting lives and supporting frontline workers, our top priority is to help protect our economy. Whilst this is a huge task, beyond what any city region can achieve acting alone, we are doing all we can to offer targeted advice and support beyond national programmes.

“I applaud the Better Off Finance initiative, that will help self-employed people who are so crucial to our economy.”

Cllr Christine Spriggs, Cabinet Member for Culture, Visitor and Creativity Economy for Wirral Council, says: “It is very worrying that some self-employed people across the Liverpool City Region who have followed Government guidelines to apply for Universal Credit when they cannot work have discovered this hasn’t been the best course of action. For example, one woman on low income had all her other benefits immediately stopped and she will be worse off now. This is unacceptable.

“I am very glad that The Women’s Organisation working with the Citizens Advice Bureau here in the Liverpool City Region is now offering a dedicated service for any self -employed person so that they can get a ‘Better Off’ quote about their benefit entitlement before deciding what to do.”

Anyone who is self-employed and registered with HMRC in the Liverpool City Region is able to access the support and should do so by contacting The Women’s Organisation directly via hello@thewo.org.uk.