UK businesses give their verdict on the government’s handling of coronavirus

We asked our users about how they are coping, where they need more support, and how they feel about the UK government’s response to the crisis

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Written and reviewed by:
Bryn Glover - Startups
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Over the past five weeks – roughly the same amount of time the Startups team have been working from home – we’ve been polling our readers in order to better understand how coronavirus is affecting them.

We asked our users about how they are coping, where they need more support, and how they feel about the UK government’s response to the crisis. We received over 900 responses, which paint a troublesome picture of a small business landscape which has quickly been turned on its head.

Three million say they been excluded from the government’s financial assistance

Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have been captured by the package of financial support made available by the government during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around three million individuals and businesses say they have been either entirely or largely missed out because they don’t fit the criteria for any of the various government schemes.

They include but are not limited to:

  • The newly self-employed
  • Self-employed people with more than £50,000 in trading profits
  • PAYE freelancers
  • New starters
  • Those denied furlough
  • Directors who are paid PAYE annually
  • Directors paid in dividends
  • Directors of companies that are not in profit
  • New businesses
  • Low investment startups
  • Those who are ineligible for business grants
  • Those on parental leave

Excluded UK is an alliance of individuals and businesses that claim to have been have entirely or largely excluded from the government’s coronavirus financial measures.

The group aims to build a stronger platform, raise awareness, lobby for support, raise funds for legal challenges and awareness activities, and to help enable the changes that are needed.

You can and find out more about Excluded UK its mission here.

63% of UK small businesses are very worried

63% of the businesses polled are very worried about their operations right now.

coronavirus worry chartOf the users polled, only 14% were not worried at all, while around a quarter (23%) were slightly worried about their businesses.

UK business response to government schemes

In the last five weeks, the UK government has introduced several schemes and rulings to support small businesses throughout the coronavirus outbreak. However, while the level of support being offered is unprecedented, the number of businesses benefiting from them is very low – this raises question marks over their effectiveness, and whether they have been designed to adequately address the obstacles being faced.

coronavirus confidence charts

At the same time, figures revealing the number of applications for the schemes announced – and how many have been accepted – have raised questions over how accessible the options are, and whether or not they are fit for purpose.

55% of the users polled said that the UK government has not been clear in its communication with businesses – perhaps one reason for the lower than expected uptake of the support being offered.

coronavirus clarity chart

Does the UK government care more about big or small businesses?

As a part of our survey, we also asked users for their opinion on which parts of the UK economy the government cared about most.

44% of people felt that the government cares about big business most, with just 13% believing that the government cares more about small business; the remaining 42% believed that both big and small business were cared for equally.

coronavirus big vs small business chart

When asked about how much the government cares about small business, only 27% thought it cared a lot, with 17% saying it didn’t care at all. The remaining 55% of users felt that the government cared a little about small business.

coronavirus small business chart

A smaller group of users was also asked about the government feelings toward freelancers – and gave a much starker response.

coronavirus freelancers chart

Only 13% of people felt that the government cared a lot about freelancers, while 37% felt that the government did not care about them at all.

Where do UK businesses need help?

In our poll, we also wanted to know where businesses felt they needed more help. The answer was overwhelmingly in finance, with 68% of users saying that they needed more support in this area. 22% said they needed more support with employees, with the remaining 9% citing a range of other requirements.

coronavirus support chart

UK businesses’ biggest worries

When asked about the most upsetting part of the pandemic for users’ businesses, there were a range of responses.

52% are finding the impact on business to be the most upsetting part of the pandemic, with 20% pointing to the impact on family, 11% highlighting the impact on staff, and 10% the impact on customers. The remaining 4% cited a combination of all factors.

coronavirus biggest worry chart

What support is available?

Over the past 5 weeks, the Startups team have been busy pulling together a series of articles that provide easy access to the schemes available. You can find a summary page here: Coronavirus small business advice.

If you’d prefer more detailed advice on any specific scheme, take a look at our series of articles to get the right information:

Written by:
Bryn Glover - Startups
Bryn Glover has been Editor of since 2017. Running the site's content strategy, Bryn spends a lot of time speaking to entrepreneurs and preparing for Startups' annual editorial campaigns. Having worked in journalism for just under a decade, Bryn wrote for sites like The Times, Reader's Digest, Independent and Times Higher Education before moving into the small business world.
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