Matt Hancock today launched a furious defence of his plan to pay people on low incomes £13 a day to self-isolate as critics said the payments would not be enough to stop people going to work.
From September 1 people who receive Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit who are required to self-isolate, who are unable to work from home and who are in Covid-19 hotspots will benefit from the new payment scheme.
Eligible people who test positive for the virus will receive £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation while other members of their household, who under current rules must isolate for 14 days, will get £182.
The scheme will initially be trialled in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham – areas which are currently subject to local lockdown measures.
The Government hopes the payments will boost compliance with requests from NHS Test and Trace for people to stay at home, with Mr Hancock pointing out the money will be ‘in addition’ to other benefits.
But critics believe the payments are far too small and many people will still feel that they cannot afford to stay at home.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today defended the Government’s plan to pay people on low incomes £13 a day to self-isolate
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: ‘I am pleased they have at last acknowledged this issue but am sorry to say this move goes nowhere near far enough.
‘The Health Secretary has already said that he couldn’t live on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at £95 a week. So how can an announcement like this work?
‘For many workers in Greater Manchester, this will not provide the support people need to cooperate with NHS Test and Trace.’
Meanwhile, Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the scheme should be rolled out across the country as she questioned why it was only being targeted at local lockdown areas.
She said: ‘Labour has been warning for months that the Government needs to make sure that people can afford to do the right thing, but once again ministers have taken far too long to realise there’s a problem.’
She added: ‘It’s concerning that 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.’
But Mr Hancock defended the scheme as he insisted the payments will be enough to persuade people to stay at home.
Asked directly whether he believed £13 a day is enough, the Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast: ‘£13 a day is in addition to the other benefits that people on low incomes get.’
Told that many people on low incomes who self-isolate would not be able to work from home and would therefore lose out on their normal pay, he said: ‘Only in some cases but absolutely we acknowledge that and it is set at the level of statutory sick pay in order to make sure that people don’t lose out from doing the right thing.
‘We are introducing it in Oldham and Pendle and Blackburn with Darwen in the first instance.
‘These are the areas of the country where the rate are the highest and we have the highest levels of intervention – the strongest local lockdown if you like – and we will roll thatout from next week and then obviously monitor it very closely.’
Mr Hancock said the scheme will be rolled out more widely if the trial proves to be successful.
He said: ‘This is where we are doing it in the first instance.
‘Firstly to make sure that the systems work, that we can get the money fast to people because obviously if you are asking somebody to self-isolate for a fortnight we want to get the money to them at the start of that rather than afterwards.
‘We are putting it in place in these three areas which have the most acute need if you like in the first instance and we will see how that goes and we will get the feedback and then with a potential to roll it our further.’
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has questioned whether the payments will be enough to persuade people to cooperate with instructions to self-isolate
The decision to introduce the payments system comes after officials concluded that one of the reasons that Leicester infection rates were so high for so long was that factory staff continued to go to work even though they were meant to be self-isolating.
Under the new plans, workers who test positive would receive £130 for a ten-day period of quarantine. Relatives or close contacts would be given £182 for 14 days.
Workers will receive the money within 48 hours of submitting a claim, which will need to include a positive Covid test result or proof that they are a close contact of someone with the virus.
Applicants must also submit a bank statement to show they receive the relevant benefits.
SAGE, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, has previously warned that only about half of patients who suspected they had the virus were following guidance on self-isolating.