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Coronavirus: Payment for people on low incomes who must self-isolate

A person wearing a protective face mask walks past a Job Centre Plus office, amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus diseaseImage copyrightREUTERSImage captionThe payment will only be available for people who claim benefits

People on low incomes in parts of England where there are high rates of coronavirus will be able to claim up to £182 if they have to self-isolate.

From Tuesday, those who claim Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit and cannot work from home will be able to get the money – equal to £13 a day.

The benefit will be trialled in parts of north-west England first.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the payment “goes nowhere near far enough”, adding people need “full pay”.

It will be worth £13 a day, so people who test positive for the virus will get £130 for their 10-day self-isolation.

But members of the household – who currently must self-isolate for 14 days – will be entitled to up to £182, assuming they also qualify for the payment.

And anyone who is told to self-isolate by NHS contact tracers and meets the qualification criteria will also be entitled to £13 per day for however long they must self-isolate.

People and a soldier wearing a protective mask are seen at the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center, as Blackburn with Darwen Council imposes local restrictions in an effort to avoid a local lockdown being forced upon the area, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in BlackburnImage copyrightREUTERSImage captionThe scheme will be trialled in Blackburn and other parts of the North West first

The payment, announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday, applies to benefit claimants who live in areas where there are high numbers of coronavirus cases.

The England-wide scheme will begin with a trial in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham – areas of the UK where there have been tighter lockdown measures after a rise in cases.

If the payment is successful it will be “quickly” rolled out to other areas where there are lots of cases, the Department of Health said.

According to data published earlier this month, nearly 5.5 million people across the UK are now claiming benefits – an 81% increase since March.

“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,” said Mr Hancock.

“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.”

Mr Burnham said he had been “calling for weeks” for the government to provide financial support for those asked to self-isolate.

“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 at £95 a week. So how can an announcement like this work?”

He added that it would not provide the support many workers in Greater Manchester needed to co-operate with NHS Test and Trace and called for the government to enable people “to self-isolate on full pay”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivers a speech on the future of the NHS at the Royal College of Physicians in central London. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 30, 2020Image copyrightPA MEDIAImage caption“The British public have already sacrificed a great deal to help slow the spread of the virus,” said Mr Hancock

People will need to provide evidence – including for example proof of a positive test, a message from NHS Test and Trace and a bank statement – and the money will be provided within 48 hours, the government said.

The government said checks will be undertaken to make sure people who apply are unable to work from home. The payment will not reduce any other benefits that a person may already receive.

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“There will be a rapid review of the scheme in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham to assess the performance consider how effectively vulnerable people have been reached, and consider how far it has helped reduce transmission of the virus in these areas,” the department said.

“If the approach is successful, the scheme will be quickly applied in other areas of high Covid-19 incidence.”

Universal Credit payments have been increased by £20 a week for the period between April 2020 and March 2021 due to the pandemic, but Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has rejected calls from campaigners to also scrap the benefits cap for the same duration.

The benefit cap limits how much any one household can receive in benefits.

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