A new payment for people on low incomes who are required to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with high rates of coronavirus is to undergo trials in the north-west of England, the health secretary has announced.
Matt Hancock said those who test positive will be entitled to access to £130 over their 10-day self-isolation period, while members of their household will be entitled to a payment of £182 when they self-isolate for 14 days.
Any non-household contacts reached via the government’s NHS test-and-trace programme will be entitled to up to £13 per day and up to £182, depending on the length of their isolation period.
Officials said the scheme will be rolled out on September 1 in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham — currently under tougher lockdown restrictions — before being expanded across the rest of England.
It comes after the head of the government’s coronavirus test-and-trace programme in England raised concerns over the lack of support for people facing the need to take time off work who were unable to claim statutory sick pay.
Dido Harding, who heads government efforts to identify and isolate those infected with coronavirus and their close contacts, said it was “particularly challenging” for those in the lowest-paid roles and the self-employed.
An estimated 1.6m people in England earn less than £120 a week and are unable to claim statutory sick pay, raising worries that they will go to work and spread the virus rather than miss out on being paid.
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.”
In order to qualify for the payment, people must already be receiving universal credit or working tax credit payments.
They will also be asked to demonstrate they have tested positive for the virus, or been asked to isolate, as well as show they are unable to work from home.
Those who are employed will be asked to provide proof of employment and the self-employed will be required to show evidence of any trading income.
The health department said all payments would be made within 48 hours of the eligible individual “providing the necessary evidence”, which will include a notification from the NHS test-and-trace programme as well as a bank statement.
“The local authority can also check the NHS test-and-trace system to confirm the individual has been asked to self-isolate, if the individual is unable to provide this information,” the department said.
Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the government had to make sure people could afford to do the right thing. “Once again ministers have taken far too long to realise there’s a problem.
“It’s concerning 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,” she said.