Covid: How many people get self-isolation payments?
About two-thirds of people in England and Wales trying to access the £500 self-isolation support payment are being rejected, according to figures obtained by BBC Reality Check.
The government announced the payment in September 2020, saying it would "ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without worry about their finances".
It estimated just under 4 million people would be eligible.
The government's scientific advisors, Sage, have warned repeatedly that concerns over money could lead to people breaking the rules on self-isolation.
If a person tests positive for coronavirus or is asked to self-isolate for another reason, they can apply for a £500 support payment in England and Wales, via one of the scheme's two funds.
People should apply online and must provide evidence they meet the eligibility criteria.
The main fund is available for people who are unable to work from home and are receiving at least one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- income-based Employment and Support Allowance
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
The discretionary fund is available for those on a low income not receiving benefits but who will suffer financially by self-isolating.
The scheme is administered by local councils, not by central government - although it provides the funding.
The figures obtained by BBC Reality Check show:
- Between 28 September and 15 January, 212,000 people requested the £500 payment in England and 74,400 were successful.
- Between 12 November and 15 January, 15,000 applied in Wales and 5,400 received the payment. Their scheme was set up a month after the one in England.
So about two thirds of people who had applied had been unsuccessful.
The reason that roughly a third of people were rejected was because of problems with their applications. This included not providing enough evidence, duplicate applications, applying too late or not engaging with the test-and-trace scheme.
The rest of the rejected applications were due to people not meeting the eligibility criteria for the scheme in the first place.
"The high rejection rates for the self-isolation scheme reveal a system that's too patchy, too strict, and is riddled with problems that were inevitable when the government rushed out a new, underfunded scheme," says Alex Collinson, a research officer at the Trade Unions Congress, which represents 5.5 million union members across England and Wales.
He says that the scheme was initially underfunded meaning some councils were cautious with delivering discretionary payments.
The Local Government Association is positive about some of the changes that have been adopted in recent weeks.
Firstly, parents who are staying at home to look after children who are self-isolating (and who meet the financial thresholds) can now access the scheme.
Secondly, the scheme has been extended until at least June and the amount of funding available is increasing from £50m to £110m.
The Department for Health and Social Care has said it will continue to work with and listen to feedback from councils in the future.
Posted on Mar 02, 2021.