SUPAW NANNY: Pet care boss calls for fairer deal for forgotten small firms

SUPAW NANNY: Pet care boss calls for fairer deal for forgotten small firms

Her SuPaw Nanny business in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, which offers a safe haven and access to a private exercise area for dogs, cats and smaller creatures, includes dog walking, day care, pet house sitting and home boarding. One of more than 700,000 directors of small limited companies, whose services are typically the bedrock of communities, Page takes a wage through a legal mix of salary and dividends from her venture built from scratch over the past nine years.

So far the group, which covers all sectors from repairers and builders to hairdressers and those in the hospitality and broadcast industries, has been excluded from the help packages available to PAYE and self-employed workers pole-axed by the pandemic’s impact.  

Dividend payments have proved one hurdle to accessing support, another is the rateable business premises requirement. Many business owners working as consultants or trainers for example do not have them.  

A petition, set up by accountancy and payroll business owner Amanda Evans, highlighting the dire straits many companies were now in and stressing the emergency to Government, has gathered force and is now heading for 350,000 signatures.

Page is SuPaw Nanny’s only employee, but another café owner who signed the petition points out: “I have furloughed staff which is good, but I can’t do that for myself and if I can’t pay my bills their jobs will go.” 

For Page, a former management executive turned entrepreneur, “this has never been about ‘woe is me’,” she says.

“SuPaw Nanny enables others to work and still have the joy of having a pet. I’ve seen my trade treble over the past couple of years as more people realise how important having a pet is to their mental wellbeing.

“My 323 clients value SuPaw and I see my responsibilities as similar to childminding. I just want fairness for all of us who have put everything into our businesses, so we are helped like the self-employed.” 

In 2018 she invested a £55,000 bank loan in upgrading of both the indoor and outside areas of her property “so we complied with the new stricter regulations. The latest assessment has given us the highest accolade,” she added.

For one of Page’s most long-standing clients, NHS surgery practice manager Sandra Stillwell, SuPaw Nanny improves life in many ways.

“The dog walking and daycare provides a lifeline to NHS workers like me, who are working long hours and having to leave our pets at home without the company or vital walks they need for their own well-being, whilst we serve the public on the frontline” she explained.

But lockdown has wiped out almost all Page’s business as clients, working from home, cancelled and she expects a 70 percent loss once reopening happens.

Aware of dividend payment exclusions, she tried other avenues, applying for a £10,000 Covid-19 small business grant which was turned down by her local authority. 

But everything changed just days ago when the council had a review and called saying she was eligible after all. 

For Page this is her lifeline, she says. “My home-run business is entitled to business rate relief so does qualify. This grant means SuPaw Nanny can survive and rebuild.”  

For businesses who also thought they might be eligible but were refused, “Try again, mistakes can happen in these difficult times,” she adds. 

And like Amanda Evans she will continue battling so limited company directors aren’t left out in the cold. 

Now part of a new collective action to end disparities, the umbrella group Excluded UK aims to brings together all those shut out of Covid-19 financial support measures. Plans are to make it a charity and “Excluded will play a central role in providing assistance on multiple levels protecting livelihoods,” declares Page. 

As for bringing in measures to support directors of small limited companies, she does not accept it is too difficult for the authorities to implement and any potential fraud risks could be minimised. 

 “The easiest way is to base it on the Self Employment Income Support scheme that is already up and running,” she says. “Claims could be on profit before tax like the self-employed. If anyone bends the rules it can be clawed back. All our information is available and we could supply certification from accountants and there could be checks down the line. This is just and do-able.”;;

Published at Wed, 20 May 2020 12:12:00 +0000