Wiltshire camera operator forced to sell his home due to no government support through Covid-19

By Anita Jaynes on 24 June, 2020

Camera operator James McCallum is having to sell his home to pay off debts accrued during lockdown, because he’s been excluded from meaningful government support. 

The 56-year-old who lives in Corsham, is one of the #forgottenltd, a business owner who has been excluded from government grants or income at this time. 

Business owners with a legal set-up like James’s have been excluded from any government support other than loans. Many stopped trading overnight due to lockdown. Their only option was to furlough themselves and receive 80 per cent of a very small salary (usually around £570) but then they can do no work on their business.

These business owners include consultants, coaches, graphic designers, web developers, gardeners, hairdressers, beauticians, therapists, plumbers, electricians, artists, musicians and many more. 

James and his wife Ellie have had to make the heart-breaking decision to sell their family home to either buy a smaller property to pay off debts, rent a home or move in with other family members. 

James said, “I feel the future is quite bleak, at least for the rest of this year. I’ve spoken to all the usual companies that employ me and they’ve written it off and are thinking about 2021 onwards. Hence the decision to sell our home, so to be honest, it’s all quite depressing.”

He’s run his production company since 2004 and his wife is an equal partner in the business. When he’s busy he often works with other freelance camera operators, vision engineers or sound recordists or editors. Now his work has vanished over night and the family have had no income for three months with no prospect of any for the rest of 2020. 

“I mainly film corporate events and conferences in London but travel to other parts of the country and further afield. Over the last couple of years, I’ve filmed several festivals and should have been at Somerset live, amongst others, in July. Now there’s no work at all.”

James and his wife got most of their income through company dividends – and these are not taken into account in any of the government schemes. They have furloughed themselves and have got 80 per cent of their small salary each and have also got some limited support from Universal Credit –  £121.18 a month and £140 a month child benefit. 

“We’ve taken a three month mortgage holiday, this includes a second mortgage we took out to complete building work on our home. I also have some loans for camera equipment which I’ve also managed to secure payment holidays on, but of course, interest is still accruing. Initially I took out a CBILS loan for £12,000 to pay some business bills however that’s gone now.”

The couple, who have two teenage children, feel angry that they have not been treated in line with other small business owners or the self-employed. 

“I have paid my taxes, as has my wife and we agreed with the decision to go into lockown to protect the NHS,” James  said. “However this has cost me my business and my home as we are not getting enough income to cover the fixed bills and to put food on the table. We’re not in this together – we have been punished for setting our business up in a certain way based upon professional advice.” 

The Treasury Select Committee recently published a report last week calling on the Government to provide adequate support to all business owners who could prove loss of income during this time. 

To help support businesses like James’s, you can join the #ForgottenLtd movement and sign its petition which currently has over 83,000 signatures calling for change. Find out more here: www.forgottenltd.com