Councils in the North of England are running out of financial support for people having to self-isolate in areas with high numbers of cases.
Many low income families do not qualify for the Government’s self-isolation fund, meaning they are left choosing whether to take time off work to self-isolate or continue working to pay the bills.
The £500 self-isolation fund is available for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home. This initially excluded people told to isolate by the NHS app, and it continues to exclude parents of children who are told by schools to isolate, small business owners, self-employed workers and students.
Councils in Leeds, Oldham, Bury and Bradford told The Guardian that the Government underestimated the demand for financial support, resulting in insufficient funding provision, as well as refusing to increase their allowance of “discretionary” funds which were made available for people on low incomes who did not receive universal credit or other benefits.
This means that in practice only people who receive government benefits will be eligible for the scheme in some areas, creating what local leaders in Yorkshire and Humber believe is a “postcode lottery”.
The £500 available is less income than someone over 25 would receive on two weeks of minimum wage payment, which is around £700.
According to The Guardian, 7,000 people have been rejected for the fund in Yorkshire and the Humber, which amounts to 60% of all applicants.
Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, told Forge Press: “I’m contacted by constituents on a daily basis who have been excluded from Covid-19 support, including those who haven’t been able to receive the £500 isolation payment.
“The Test and Trace support payment is only automatically offered to those in receipt of Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, or a small number of legacy benefits, meaning seven out of eight workers don’t qualify.
“The Government have finally agreed to Labour’s call to expand the £500 Test and Trace support payment to all eligible users of the NHS Covid-19 app who are told to go into isolation and who can’t work from home. But more must be done to ensure everyone who needs to do so has the support to self-isolate.”
Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam said: “We need a robust strategy for getting infection rates down, which means offering support to those who can’t afford to self-isolate.
“Forcing people to choose between their health and their livelihoods ruins lives and makes it harder to control the virus. Rather than 60% of people being turned away for self-isolation support, the criteria need to be relaxed and more money needs to be made available.
“The Government also needs to fix the holes in the furlough scheme and the Self Employed Income Support scheme, and we need to set Statutory Sick Pay to a living wage to ensure that illness doesn’t lead to destitution.”
Image: Tim Green