Abacul web content aggregator. Adding the entire web to your favor.
Abacul web content aggregator. Adding the entire web to your favor.



Link to original content: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/life/coronavirus-charity-appeal-like-many-builders-ineligible-help/
Coronavirus charity appeal: 'Like so many builders, I'm ineligible for help. My family faces ruin'

Coronavirus charity appeal: 'Like so many builders, I'm ineligible for help. My family faces ruin'

Robert Potter's partner can't work, their wedding is on ice, and his asthma makes supermarket jobs too dangerous. His situation is dire

Potter and family
Robert Potter, pictured with his fiancée, Steph, his infant son, Teddy, and his stepdaughter, Milli, will be unable to pay his bills next month Credit: Jay Williams
Coronavirus appeal
Free Web Hosting

The day after his livelihood was curtailed indefinitely, Robert Potter awoke as usual at 6am. He is a builder, accustomed to early starts, and the government edict the day before, which stated that all non-essential work must be paused, had come so suddenly that he didn’t think to turn off his alarm.

He climbed out of bed all the same and went to the window. Several of Potter’s neighbours are tradesmen, and would usually have gone to work by that point of the morning, but their vans lay dormant on their drives. It was as if the world had halted overnight.

Potter’s overriding sensation that morning, he explains, was of “the unrealness of it”. An eerily quiet neighborhood; a step-daughter, Milli, already off school; and of course his own share in the global anxiety about a pandemic that seemed to arise as suddenly as it ended Potter’s work.

The work had been the construction of a residential building near Liskeard, Cornwall, where Potter and his family live. Potter, a ground builder, had been working on the foundations and drainage. He and the four other builders, correctly expecting Boris Johnson’s speech that afternoon to warn against non-essential travel, had spent Monday 23 March making the site safe to be left for an indeterminate period.

Sure enough, Johnson told all Britons to stay in their homes; sure enough, the company for whom Potter was working rang the site to tell the workers to shut it down indefinitely.

Potter phoned his fiancée, Steph, on the way home. Steph, a carer, is the mother of Milli, 13, and of Teddy, who is Steph and Potter’s 18-month-old son. Potter is a self-employed contractor, which meant that he wasn’t covered by the job retention scheme announced by Rishi Sunak on March 20, but Steph was nevertheless relieved to know that her future husband, an asthmatic, would be off work.

Robert Potter has paid tens of thousands in tax since starting work at the age of 17 Credit: Jay Williams

“She was pleased I was coming home,” says Potter, “but when I got back we sat down and chatted about it, hoping something would come from the government.”

Nothing came. That Thursday, Sunak added measures to help self-employed people, but those measures excluded people who have been self-employed for less than a year and, as such, did not fill in a self-assessment tax return for 2019. Potter, who became self-employed in November, is one of those people.

Bills have continued to come in, from rent to gas to electricity and the loan Potter took out for a car. Steph has been off work for months with depression and anxiety, and her statutory sick pay cannot cover the family’s costs, and in any case will soon reach its 28-week limit. Before the crisis, the couple spent £800 on the wedding they’d planned to have in May. Now they have about a month before they can’t pay the bills and although Potter is applying for Universal Credit, it won’t come through in time.

The bad luck has piled up. Potter would have asked the local supermarket for a job, but his asthma makes him particularly vulnerable to coronavirus. “I can’t catch it in case it kills me,” he says.

All this leaves Potter, as he puts it, in “a desperate situation”. He has worked in construction from the age of 17, and in the 19 years since then he has paid tens of thousands of pounds in tax. “I had the opportunity to better myself going self-employed, and now I’m in this hole. The government did really well to support so many people, but I’ve fallen through one of the cracks.”

Coronavirus appeal

So have many of Potter’s colleagues in the construction industry, which has been badly affected during the crisis. There is no such thing as operating a JCB from home: following a period in which mixed government messaging caused some sites to close while others remained open, construction across Britain has now almost entirely ceased.

Even by March 20, the Federation of Master Builders was reporting that small builders had seen a 76% reduction in work, and this shortfall is already threatening businesses. In a recent survey of its members, the National Federation of Builders found that 50 per cent of respondents would struggle to sustain a viable business if the market was significantly depressed for more than six months. 

And as for Potter’s problem: given that the self-employed occupy 37 per cent of construction work – a sector which, directly and indirectly, employs 2.7million people – there must be many others who have fallen through precisely the same crack.

Cuddles with his son, Teddy, are one of Potter's few consolations in his current predicament Credit: Jay Williams

Potter has been offered help by friends, but felt unable to take it. “They’re in the same situation as we are. If it’s going to go on for months, they’re going to need every penny as well.” 

Trying to find out what government assistance he was entitled to, he used the calculator on the website of Turn2us, a charity that gives direct grants to people in need. Turn2us, which the Telegraph is supporting in our Coronavirus Appeal, might offer hope, but the charity has seen requests for its help quintuple over the last month. It will be an almighty task to support even a fraction of the many people who, like Potter, face financial ruin.

Title
Dear reader...
Learn and share through extraordinary times
Read more

“It was pretty difficult asking for help,” says Potter, “but I’ve got to get money from somewhere, and I’m not too proud to do whatever needs to be done.” 

For the time being, stuck in limbo, he has been trying to keep himself occupied with home improvements and spending time with his young family, even though his marriage to Steph, scheduled for May, will have to be postponed. “It’s been nice waking up and having cuddles with my son. I’m just trying to keep things upbeat for my children and as normal as possible.”

Potter has tried emailing Rishi Sunak to explain his situation, but hasn’t had a response. “He’s too busy to worry about a Cornishman like me!”, Potter says, with a chuckle that belies his predicament.

To make a donation to the Telegraph Coronavirus Appeal, visit telegraph.co.uk/appeal or call 0151 284 1927 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)







Sapili.Org - Repository of public domain material. Books, articles, theses, monographs, essays, short stories, poems, etc.