Coronavirus: ‘Almost no one’ is getting £500 self-isolation support payment

People can claim £500 for a two-week isolation period – but it’s not available to everyone (Image: Getty Images)

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Almost no one is getting a £500 self-isolation payment set up by the government, MPs have heard.

Ministers claimed up to 4million working people could be eligible when the Test and Trace Support Payment was set up last month.

But the Work and Pensions Committee heard take-up so far as been poor – leaving many on statutory sick pay of just £95.85 a week.

Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation think tank said the £500 is “very generous” for those who qualify but added: “No one’s claiming this benefit full stop. There’s almost no take-up going on of this Test and Trace payment, administered by local authorities in England.”

He added: “There’s a delivery problem going on. No one’s heard of it, people don’t ask for it, and Test and Trace isn’t pushing it.

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“And in the short term we have an answer to that for most employees, which is to use the furlough scheme properly and then we need to sort ourselves out for the end of March.”

Zoe Charlesworth of think tank Policy in Practice said there’s a list “as long as your arm” of paperwork to fill out and stringent conditions, including applying within 14 days and not applying if you’re only told to self-isolate by the Covid-19 app.

“There are huge barriers being put in the way of people applying,” she said. She said people forced to rely on sick pay can’t cover their bills and “just won’t self-isolate”.

Paul Johnson of the IFS think tank said sick pay is “clearly not going to be enough to persuade people to do something which is essentially a public good.”

He said furlough may help people until March, but you really are going to have to fix this past March for this specific reason”.

People across England are able to apply for a £500 payment if they're ordered to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

Paul Johnson of the IFS think tank said sick pay is “clearly not going to be enough"
(Image: Free/Nick Liseiko)

However, it's not available if people are notified automatically by the Covid-19 app to isolate – only if they are told directly by Test and Trace.

And it's only available to people in certain circumstances, which include claiming certain benefits and being in work.

People can only claim the payment in England if they are receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.

Applicants must provide their local council with a bank statement, proof of employment, and evidence of being self-employed or unable to work from home.

Mr Bell slammed the “dog’s dinner” of support for people during coronavirus, especially the self-employed. He said the government’s system of self-employment grants has created “very very rough justice, unacceptably rough justice”, with almost half a million people having no work in September and no support at all.

Failing to self-isolate will attract fines
(Image: Getty Images)

Meanwhile Mr Johnson of the IFS said it would be “bizarre” not to raise disabled people’s benefits by £20 a week.

Around 2million people on ‘legacy’ benefits – most of them sick or disabled – were left behind with just a 1.7% rise when Universal Credit rose by £20 a week in April.

Despite repeated calls Tory ministers have refused to boost the legacy benefits, including Jobseekers Allowance and ESA, by £20 a week to match UC.

Campaigners say that has left a “discriminatory two-tier welfare state”.

Ministers are also not yet guaranteeing the Universal Credit boost – which was made for one year only – will be made permanent beyond April 2021.

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Mr Johnson said it would be “bizarre” to keep a permanent £20-a-week Universal Credit rise and not raise legacy benefits too.

He told MPs: “We don’t know still what’s going to happen to the supposedly temporary increases in Universal Credit next spring

“But if those increases are to be kept, it would be particularly bizarre not to do the same for legacy benefits at the same time.

“And that will require a decision quite quickly in order to make that happen.”

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