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Calls for £500 self-isolation payment to be extended

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Labour party says extending eligibility for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment to anyone without access to workplace sick pay will help keep the virus under control and prevent a fourth national lockdown.

The Test and Trace support payment scheme offers £500 to eligible claimants in England who are told they need to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The scheme is administered by local authorities and set to run until the end of March.

But Dido Harding, head of Test and Trace, has admitted that 20,000 people a day are not self-isolating because they can’t afford not to work.

SAGE scientists have also said financial hardship is a barrier to self-isolation, but only one in eight workers are currently automatically able to access the Test and Trace Support Payment.

Under Labour’s proposals anyone who doesn’t have access to occupational sick pay would be eligible to receive the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. Low-income parents of self-isolating children would also receive it and the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule would be suspended.

Labour says that only three in 10 people are currently self-isolating when asked to, and is warning that the Conservative government’s failure to reset the system for self-isolation risks further economic damage once the current national restrictions end.

Labour is also calling for the government to investigate whether Statutory Sick Pay is acting as a barrier to self-isolation. At just £95.85 a week, even health secretary Matt Hancock has admitted SSP is not enough to live on.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said: “Anyone who needs support to self-isolate should be able to access it – no matter where they live or when they develop symptoms. That is the only way we can keep the virus under control when restrictions are lifted, avoid the devastating economic damage of another lockdown and help the vaccine programme succeed.

“However, under the current system just three in 10 people who should be self-isolating are doing so. The government’s roadmap to recovery must improve the system of self-isolation in this country. That means expanding the Test and Trace Support Payment to those who don’t have a workplace sick pay scheme, better enforcement, and action to fix the broken system of Statutory Sick Pay. This will help prevent another lockdown, protect public health and secure our economy.”

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