Dentists react to measures for self-employed during coronavirus crisis

The chancellor has announced a number of measures to help the self-employed during the coronavirus crisisSelf-employed dentists will receive 80% of their earnings from the state in response to the spread of coronavirus – but only those earning up to £50,000.

Yesterday chancellor Rishi Sunak announced self-employed workers will be given up to £2,500 a month for three months.

The support plan will be backdated to March, but only covers incomes up to £50,000.

The grants will not begin to arrive until the beginning of June and will be received in one lump sum.

In response, the British Dental Association (BDA) released a statement calling on the government to remove the £50,000 threshold.

In a letter addressed to the chancellor, it stated that if monthly support is limited to a £2,500 maximum, it sees no need for an upper limit on earnings to qualify for the support.

It pointed out the average earnings of an associate dentist is £69,000, significantly lower than the £200,000 average income of the top 5% quoted by the chancellor.

It’s not enough

Cosmetic dentist Shiraz Khan acknowledged dentists are on the higher end of the earning spectrum when it comes to self employment – but believes more needs to be done to support them.

He said: ‘I do know and appreciate dentists still fall in the upper end for earnings.

However, if you take the average earnings of a dentist (£69,000), it doesn’t compare to many in the top 5% who can earn nearer to £200,000.

‘There should be a provision in place, taking into consideration these average earnings ­– especially given there was no cap on the employed earnings announced last week.

‘Businesses have their own loans but self-employed dentists don’t.’

He added: ‘I understand there are many people in need. I’m also not disparaging the commitment of the government. They’re offering more than anyone has ever offered in the past.

‘Yet, the support for dentists isn’t enough. I’ve put my name down to volunteer at a trust in London. I’m just trying to do what I can and help lessen the load. I expect no financial recognition for this.

‘However, ultimately, we are at the higher end of the risk spectrum.  Considering we’ve been on the frontline for the last two months, putting ourselves at risk, I don’t think it’s fair. Up until last week we were expected to work as normal.’

It’s discriminatory

Sarah Canavan is an associate at Long Buckby Dental in Northamptonshire and chair of the General Dental Practice Committee’s associates group.

She believes this move will hit dental professionals hard and expressed concern for the future of the industry.

‘I think it’s discriminatory. There’s no cap on PAYE but there is on the self-employed,’ she said.

‘The perception of the public is that dentists earn an absolute fortune but that really isn’t the case anymore.

‘I think the government have been pretty good. They are providing economic help but I don’t see why the self-employed are being penalised.

‘This month, financially, I’ll be okay. But potentially next month I am earning nothing. I work for a mixed practice – in three, four or five months we won’t know if there’ll be a practice to come back to.’

She added that it will not just be dentists who struggle as a result of the economic implications of COVID-19.

She said: ‘I also think this is particularly hard for dental nurses and receptionists. They aren’t employed directly by the NHS so essentially they get no benefits but are expected to be redeployed and help where they can.

‘I’m concerned about my patients. We try to provide care where we can but unfortunately the circumstances don’t allow that right now. The question people are asking is am I going to get paid?’

No protection

In his letter to the chancellor, BDA chair, Martin Woodrow, said: ‘Routine dental care has appropriately been closed down on government advice, with only urgent care being provided.

‘Therefore, as things stand, many dentists working exclusively or largely in the private sector have no means of earning, and can expect no protection from the state.

‘They have mostly been trained at great public expense but are now in danger of losing their livelihoods through government action.’

Additionally, to receive the grant at least half of an individual’s income needs to have come from means of self-employment (as registered on the tax return filed in January for 2018-19).

Anyone who missed the deadline now has an additional four weeks to complete it and qualify.

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