Two-thirds of Covid self-isolation grant applications rejected, report says

Government criteria ‘extremely tight’, one council says

Matt Mathers
Sunday 20 June 2021 00:05
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Workers in England seeking financial help after following advice to self-isolate due to Covid are being refused grants, it has been reported.

Councils are rejecting more than six in 10 applications to the test and trace support scheme, according to figures obtained by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Under the scheme, run by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), workers can get a £500 payment if they have had to quarantine due to the virus.

Official guidance says people on "low incomes" can apply to the scheme if they are employed or self-employed, cannot work from home and will lose incomes as a result.

To qualify for the grant, applicants must have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, the NHS Covid-19 app, of if they're the parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate.

More than two-thirds of applications to the scheme are being rejected, according to the TUC figures, which were obtained under freedom of information laws and first reported by The Guardian.

Hackney Council, in east London, said it had to reject 91 per cent of requests due to what it described as "extremely tight" government criteria.

The council said it rejected some applications because the correct paperwork was not produced, although it appreciates that it can be difficult for families who are self-isolating to do so.

Gatehead Council, in northeast England, said it had rejected 97 per cent of applications because claimants did not meet the criteria.

Overall, a quarter of the 94 councils who responded to the TUC's request for data said they had run out of money to make payments at some point during the scheme.

The grant scheme is seen as crucial in helping to slow the spread of Covid, which is now surging again in what experts fear is the beginning of a third wave.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the scheme is failing and accused the government of making it more difficult for workers to self-isolate.

“No one should be forced to choose between doing the right thing and self-isolating, and being plunged into hardship,” Ms O'Grady said in a statement.

“But too many are still going without the financial support they need to self-isolate. The self-isolation payment scheme is failing. And it has been crystal clear since the start of the pandemic that the UK’s measly statutory sick pay isn’t enough to live on.”

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Since it launched in September 2020, the government has made £176m available to local authorities to run the scheme. In March this year, we increased funding and extended the eligibility to help even more people.

“The department is working with all 314 local authorities in England to ensure as many people as possible are aware of the support available to them following the initial announcement and will continue to listen to feedback on the scheme.”

The disclosures come just days after chancellor Rishi Sunak's Treasury department was accused of "hiding" sick pay from people who had been off work due to Covid.

According to emails at the start of 2021 between civil servants, and seen by the Politico website, the department instructed government officials not to publicise how furlough could be used to access payments during the isolation period - provisions that were set out in the job retention scheme.

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