WEEKS ago Pamela Dempsey was running a successful dog training business turning over an average of £5,000 a month and had plans to marry her partner.
But now Pamela, 44, and David Holmes, 43, can't afford their household bills and running costs of their business.
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The Lincolnshire couple run dog behaviour and aggression therapy firm – Impackt Behaviour – but coronavirus social distancing rules mean it's impossible to work safely.
As she trades as a limited company she isn’t covered by the government’s furlough scheme and doesn't qualify for other help such as the loan or grant scheme.
“I feel totally deflated and very vulnerable now, seeing the contempt that small businesses have been treated with really has made me use this time to reconsider how we run things in the future and look into different options”, Pamela told The Sun.
“Everyone else seems to have been looked after well but us entrepreneurs, hardworking and dedicated business owners, have been thrown to the wolves.
“They are forcing small businesses into a bad situation – to make a choice between safety and staying alive.”
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The couple had been saving £200 a month towards a wedding scheduled for next June – but now their plans for marriage are on hold.
Pamela was a sole trader up until three years ago when, on the advice of her accountant, she set up Impackt Behaviour as a limited company.
The couple were advised to pay themselves in dividends rather than via PAYE.
But it’s this detail which means they won’t receive any help from the Government during the pandemic as people who pay themselves with dividends aren’t covered by the scheme set up to help self-employed workers.
Frustratingly, Pamela planned to switch to PAYE in April so she could take on full-time staff.
'The priority was to protect our two little boys'
As a nationally renowned dog behaviour and aggression therapy expert, she works with the most aggressive canine cases, making it hard to do her job remotely.
They also have to home-school their two sons, aged five and seven, now their school is shut.
The children are normally eligible for free school meals.
“Me and David decided immediately that the priority was to protect our two little boys from any potential threat health-wise and also to respect the national need to stay home and stay safe,” Pamela said.
“We normally have a turnover of about £5,000 a month with the adventure dog walking and training classes, and my behaviour classes.
“Obviously all that stopped two weeks ago as we were advised to.
“We had already seen a massive reduction in dog walking, as so many people were staying at home.”
But while Pamela’s business might have stopped, the overheads haven’t, and neither have their household bills.
They rent, rather than own a business premises, so don’t qualify for a Small Business Grant from the Government (worth up to £10,000).
The couple borrowed £15,000 on credit cards to build a dog rehabilitation and training centre – this still needs to be paid back.
Five vehicles owned by the company also need to be taxed and insured.
The pair also rent their home so cannot benefit from a mortgage payment holiday. They don’t have any savings.
Pamela says: “The problem is that although my family may be eligible for Universal Credit the business itself has monthly costs that still need to be met.
“A lot of dog trainers are doing online courses but the vast majority of our income comes from my expertise in rehabilitating severely aggressive dogs and that is not something that I am comfortable to offer online.
“My whole work ethic is built around parents with young children working hours that are sustainable and realistic to that of a developing family and the unique situation of being tied to school hours.
“Yet we are totally compromised now. Either we need to jeopardise everything to keep our business growing or stay at home to protect our family.”
Meanwhile, just 2 per cent of small businesses have received coronavirus loans – and thousands risk going bust.
Business secretary Alok Sharma recently also told banks that it's their turn to bail out small businesses – more than a decade after they were saved during the financial crisis.
The coronavirus lockdown is set to to be ended in stages as the Treasury fears that businesses won’t survive past June.
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