CEO update December: looking back at how IPSE rose to meet the challenge of 2020

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Firstly, wherever you’re reading this, I hope you’re safe and well – and looking forward to a happy Christmas even in this strange and difficult year. And 2020 certainly has been both of those things – particularly for the self-employed.

It’s now nine months since I became CEO of IPSE, and it’s remarkable to look back at everything that has changed in that time. These last months have been a time of enormous upheaval and distress for the self-employed. But it has also been a time when, I am proud to say, IPSE has risen to meet the challenges facing our members and the wider self-employed community. We have not won every struggle this year, and there is much we are still fighting for, but I assure you we are doing more than ever to push self-employed interests in government and provide support and guidance in these difficult times.

It’s your IPSE

IPSE exists for you, our members. We campaign for your interests, we exist because of your membership and some members are even chosen to play a vital role in the leadership of our organisation by serving on the IPSE Board. In fact, in February next year we will be holding an election for two positions on our Board – an exciting chance for you, whether you are standing for election or casting your vote, to have your say on an important part of our future. (Look out for more on this in the coming weeks.).

It’s because of our increased focus on our members that we have this year run 84 webinars on everything from government support schemes to how to manage your finances in uncertain times – and they have been attended by over 10,000 people. That’s why we’ve also sent you a newsletter with the latest updates and advice every week since March.

It’s why we transformed National Freelancers Day this year into a day of virtual advice and support, which was attended by nearly 400 people – and which recently won an award at the ABPCO event awards. It’s why we ran MyMoney, a month of financial guidance webinars that was attended by over 700 people.


Pushing for better for the self-employed

As well as doing more to directly support members, 2020 has also seen us doing more than ever before to champion the self-employed in government. We have held more Ministerial meetings this year than ever, and had more of a direct impact in the heart of government. We’ve spoken directly to the Chancellor on three occasions, pressing the need for policies that support and encourage all those who have had the courage to strike out on their own.

We have appeared twice before the Treasury Select Committee, who fully endorsed our proposal to get support to the UK’s many struggling company directors. We also appeared once before the Business Committee, where we were among the first organisations to call for income support during the pandemic. And we have appeared three times before the House of Lords Sub Finance Bill Committee – each time attacking the changes to IR35, calling for them to be delayed and ultimately scrapped.

Despite our successes, there remains much we are still fighting for. On IR35, we got the delay we were calling for, but only for one year. The IR35 changes are now due to come in next April and we continue to fight hard against them. We are still calling for them to be scrapped, and next year we will continue looking for alternatives that will make the entire IR35 system redundant. In the meantime, we’re working hard to prepare members for the changes and give them the tools they need to keep working as contractors outside IR35 after April.

We are also all too aware that the government’s support packages have excluded many self-employed people. Some businesses have already been devasted by the economic impacts of Covid and many have fallen through the gaps in support. IPSE, like the self-employed themselves, is not accustomed to asking the government for hand-outs, but this is a once in a lifetime crisis and everyone should be supported equally. We will continue to push government to do more for those so far left to fend for themselves.

Louder than ever

Besides influencing policy, this year we have also done more than ever to raise awareness about the causes that matter to you. Our campaign to get the government to plug the gaps in self-employed support gained enormous traction, with over 500,000 people signing our petition. And throughout the year, we have raised awareness about this, the threat of self-employed tax rises and many other vital issues. Pressing these causes, we have appeared in the national media countless times this year: in fact, we have appeared on BBC Radio 4 over 20 times and on BBC News Online over 30 times.

A difficult year, but a brighter future

2020 has been a tremendously difficult year – particularly for the self-employed. We began the year fearing for the future of contracting because of IR35, but have ended it fearing not just that but many more threats to our vital self-employed community. But 2020 is also the year when IPSE has risen to the challenges presented to it – when we have pushed through for you, our members. And we will not stop now: we will keep doing everything we can both to support and guide you in difficult times and also to champion your cause in government, in the media and across the UK.

Meet the authors

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IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.
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Derek Cribb