BORIS Johnson is "actively considering further steps" to help Britain’s five million self-employed workers through the coronavirus crisis, Downing Street has said.

Last week, the UK Government announced an unprecedented plan to underwrite the wages of millions of workers who face being laid off as activity dries up.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, unveiled plans to pay employees 80 per cent of their salaries, capped at £2,500 per month, in a bid to avoid mass unemployment.

While the country’s army of freelancers, contractors and other self-employed workers can access a £94.25 a week in Universal Credit benefits and can defer self-assessed tax payments until next year, it is a much less generous package.

However, No 10 has signalled help may be coming with officials working "around the clock" to find a "well-targeted support package".

The Prime Minister's spokesman told reporters this morning: "We understand the difficult position the self-employed are in. We have always said we will go further where we can and are actively considering further steps.

"We appreciate the urgency of the situation and officials are working around the clock to find a well-targeted support package."

He pointed out that one of the difficulties was finding a suitable mechanism to get help to the self-employed. Announcement of help for the self-employed could come as early as today's Downing St press conference.

The signal from Downing St came just hours after Mervyn King, the former Governor of the Bank of England, urged Mr Johnson to help Britain’s self-employed workforce.

Lord King argued that self-employed workers should receive the same level of support as company employees was a “good starting point”

He argued: “It would be equivalent to the support that’s being given for paying wages. Whether we will need to go higher than that is something that’s impossible to judge today,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, describing the coronavirus crisis as a “much more serious and much more difficult” problem to cope with than the 2008 financial crisis, which he helped tackle from Threadneedle St.

The crossbench peer also suggested more loans and tax breaks for the self-employed were needed.

He added: “You cannot blame the Government for creating this contraction in activity, it is absolutely necessary. The question is how we help businesses and self-employed people survive through to the end of the epidemic.”

John McDonnell for Labour seized on Lord King’s comments, saying: “The former Governor of the Bank of England on the Today programme has just backed Labour's call for the inclusion of the self-employed in the income compensation scheme.

"The Government must act now. There should be no further delay. This is about people’s lives," declared the Shadow Chancellor.