Around 70% of people in England who apply for self-isolation financial support are turned down

By Sarah Wilson
Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 1:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 1:15 pm
The TUC has said the lack of support is a "gaping hole" in the UK's approach to tackling coronavirus (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The TUC has said the lack of support is a "gaping hole" in the UK's approach to tackling coronavirus (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

New data has revealed that around 70 per cent of people in England who apply for financial support in order to self-isolate due to Covid-19 are rejected.

The data, published by The Guardian and collected from 171 local councils in England, showed that just 36,000 people out of 120,000 received the one-off £500 payment available to people required to self-isolate.

In one out of every four council areas, 90 per cent of people were refused help.

Who qualifies for self-isolation payment?

The support was introduced four months ago for those on low pay who will lose earnings if unable to work. To qualify for the payment, applicants must be on a low income, in receipt of one of seven means-tested benefits and be unable to work from home.

According to The Resolution Foundation, the stringency of eligibility requirements means only around one in eight workers qualify for a pay out. This means that many sole traders, self-employed people, small business owners and parents who have to self-isolate because of their children are excluded from support.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which conducted the research, told The Guardian the approach was "paltry" and "patchy", forcing people to decide between “doing the right thing and being plunged into hardship”.

“Too many low-paid workers are going without the financial support they need to self-isolate - this is a gaping hole in the UK’s public health approach,” she  said.

£20m shortfall in funding

The TUC found that the demand for payments was significantly higher than the funding available to local councils from the Government.

Out of 169 councils, 35 per cent had had run out of main funding for the payment by 6 January.

The TUC noted that there was a £20.2 million shortfall between the amount councils need and the amount that the Government provided to them.

If the same demand occurs across England, this shortfall would extend to £70.6m.

Out of all the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the UK has the lowest mandatory sick pay for people with coronavirus as a proportion of average earnings.

In spite of calls from the TUC to increase sick pay from £95.85 per week to £330 per week, the Treasury has not indicated a planned increase.