Government vows £13-a-day payment for low-paid people asked to self-isolate in high Covid areas
The new scheme will be trialled in parts of north-west England. (PA)
People on low incomes who need to self-isolate in areas with high rates of Covid-19 will be able to claim up to £182 under plans unveiled by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
From Tuesday, those claiming Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit and who cannot work from home will be able to make use of a new payment scheme which will be initially trialled in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham.
Mr Hancock said the plans would allow people on low incomes to “continue playing their part in the national fight against this virus“ — but Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham warned the amount of help given "goes nowhere near far enough“.
It will see those who test positive with the virus able to claim £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation, while other members of their household who must self-isolate for 14 days will be able to claim £182.
Contacts from outside someone’s household who are advised to self-isolate by the Govenrment’s NHS Test and Test programme will also be able to claim up to £182 under the new scheme.
Mr Hancock said: “The British public have already sacrificed a great deal to help slow the spread of the virus. Self-isolating if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or have come into contact with someone who has, remains vital to keeping on top of local outbreaks.
“This new payment scheme will help people on low incomes and who are unable to work from home to continue playing their part in the national fight against this virus.”
The Government is promising that payments will be made “within 48 hours of the eligible individual providing the necessary evidence”, which will take the form of a notification from NHS Test and Trace and a bank statement.
The payment will not reduce the level of welfare benefits a person currently receives.
And officials say there will be a “rapid review” of the trial scheme in the north-west of England with a view to expanding it across other areas with high rates of Covid-19.
But Labour’s Andy Burnham, who has previously called on the Government to step up its help for those asked to self-isolate, questioned the amount being offered by the Government.
The Greater Manchester mayor said: "I am pleased they have at last acknowledged this issue but am sorry to say this move goes nowhere near far enough.”
He added: "The Health Secretary has already said that he couldn't live on Statutory Sick Pay at £95 a week. So how can an announcement like this work?"
That was echoed by Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, who said ministers had “taken far too long to realise there’s a problem”.
“Just last week the Chancellor suggested there was no need to change the system for people who have to self-isolate,” the Labour frontbencher said.
“Now the Health Secretary — who confessed that Statutory Sick Pay in the UK isn’t enough to live on — thinks the solution is to offer people who aren’t currently eligible the same limited level of support.
“It’s concerning that this will only apply to a limited number of areas with high rates of Covid-19. The instruction to self-isolate applies to everyone in the country, so everyone should get the support they need to self-isolate.”