Campaigning for those excluded from government Covid support

Chris Kent and Billy

Chris Kent, runs The K9 Project, pictured with one of her dogs Billy. - Credit: Chris Kent / The K9 Project

The leader of a popular Ely community group is campaigning for the government to help those who have missed out on financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Kent, runs The K9 Project, and promotes the social and mental benefits of dog assisted activities through her work.

Before the pandemic, a proportion of the programmes would involve visiting schools, community colleges and voluntary groups.

Much of her work involves supporting people with special educational and additional needs.

The K9 Community Café, a weekly get-together for dog owners in Ely, was also popular.

The K9 Community Cafe is calling for support to find a venue for its weekly gatherings after its former home was forced to...

The K9 Community Café weekly get-togethers were popular before the pandemic hit. - Credit: Archant

But when the pandemic hit last year in March, Chris didn’t qualify for any of the financial support being offered by the government. 

She said: “When Covid first hit, I was caring for my mum who died later in the year. 

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“But I didn’t qualify for the help because of the ‘50/50 rule’. I receive a moderate pension after working as a social worker for 19 years – but I also need to work as it isn’t quite enough to live on. 

“To calculate whether or not I qualify for help, one of the years where my income was reduced to look after my mum was used. 

“This was enough to be excluded from any of the support schemes because I effectively didn’t earn enough that one year. 

“I also don’t qualify for any local authority grants as I didn’t have to pay business rates.” 

Chris Kent and Izzy

Chris Kent, of the K9 Project, with one of her dogs Izzy. - Credit: Chris Kent / The K9 Project

Chris spoke to this newspaper last month about the difficult decisions she has faced during the pandemic.

She has tried to adapt her enterprise with more outdoor activities – but without being able to go into schools and other community venues her programmes have been reduced significantly. 

“I now find myself in considerable debt which is something I had never imagined,” she added. 

Chris is not alone. There are said to be 3 million other UK taxpayers who have had no government support since the pandemic hit. 

She is also now part of a campaign group called Excluded UK, which is made up of individuals and businesses excluded from the Government’s Covid-19 support measures.

James Bull

James Bull, Labour's candidate for South East Cambridgeshire during the 2019 general election. - Credit: Archant

James Bull, the previous Labour parliamentary candidate for South East Cambridgeshire, said: “Chris is articulating something lots of people across Cambridgeshire are having to deal with.

“The government has taken ‘a one size fits all’ approach when it comes to its financial provision for businesses and individuals during the pandemic.

“It has not taken the time to get detail for all those unique cases, like Chris’, that fall outside this ‘one size fits all’ assessment. These people also need support.”

Chris has been in touch with Lucy Frazer, MP for south east Cambridgeshire about the issue.

The MPs office pointed out that the government has put in place “extensive” support for those who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, including the furlough scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

It added that around 95 per cent of people who are mainly self-employed are eligible to benefit from the scheme - making the government’s scheme one of the most generous in the world.

Lucy Frazer

Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Archant

Ms Frazer said: "I have seen first-hand the fantastic work that K9 does. 

“The Government has provided significant support to millions of people across the country including over £21m to individuals in South East Cambridgeshire. 

“Where individuals who manage organisations like K9 have slipped through that provision I have raised their individual circumstances, on their behalf, with the Chancellor.” 

Chris added: “People do understand why they were overlooked at the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much was going on and decisions had to be made quickly. 

“But 10 months on, we’re still no further forwards, and this has been an incredibly stressful time for many people. 

“I’m worried about the future and I do feel the lack of financial support available for us in this ‘excluded’ group is an injustice.  

“It really makes you feel worthless and devalued as a tax payer - I just hope the government will reconsider our situations." 

To find out more about The K9 Project, visit The K9 Project website.