The easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK has not alleviated concerns about the future viability of SMEs or eased the stresses they are under, finds the latest Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) UK and the Corporate finance Network’s (CFN ) SME Health Tracker.

The health tracker survey features insights from accountants and represents of 15,500 SME clients, this week’s survey (closed 15 July) revealed increasing levels of stress and anxiety, with 83% of accountants reporting that their SME clients are feeling more stressed and anxious than usual; a third are not sleeping compared to 21% two weeks ago, and nearly a fifth say they can’t cope.

The results highlight a wavering confidence with cashflow impacted over the last two weeks:

  • 5.4% of SMEs have decided to liquidate compared to 2.9% two weeks ago
  • 23% say current social distancing rules make it difficult for them to open and trade
  • 29% of SMEs have made their credit terms more favourable to get cash moving
  • 66% have deferred tax payments, and of these only 34% say they will be able to meet their tax liabilities in six months

CFN founder Kirsty McGregor said: Today [16 July], we launch the nationwide #LeaveNoBusinessBehind campaign with a call to support every business owner, so they can get back to business health and start thriving again.

“Financial forecasts are an essential part of this survival – they’re a dynamic and necessary forward-looking roadmap. But we know this planning and forecasting will involve tough discussions between the SME owner, their accountant, lenders and families and there is an understandable reluctance to focus on the glaring reality of the situation. The government has introduced a raft of measures which we have welcomed, but there is more to be done. That’s why this campaign is now calling on the accountancy profession to step up with their expertise and ability to motivate.”

ACCA UK head Claire Bennison added: “The lockdown may have been lifted, but this Tracker’s results show SME clients are more stressed than before. In the recent discussions we’ve had with ACCA members working with SMEs, we hear loud and clear the pressure their clients are under, clients who are hungry to find solutions to survive. Addressing these welfare concerns needs to be part of the policy mix in finding these solutions, and that’s why we’re proud to be supporting #LeaveNoBusinessBehind, an inclusive campaign that aims to redress the balance and where the skills of accountants will be paramount."