Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland
SDLP social justice spokesperson Mark H Durkan has welcomed the expansion of the Discretionary Support Scheme, which will increase the daily allowance payable and extend the number of days for which an award can be made. However, he argued that the Department for Communities branding as a ‘self-isolation grant’ is intentionally misleading.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“The enhancement of the Discretionary Support scheme is of course a welcome development and will be of great benefit for those on a low income who may find themselves in need of support to cover short term living expenses.
“However, the Department for Communities, by rebranding this support which was available pre-Covid as a ‘Self-Isolation Grant’ paints a very misleading picture and deliberately so. I have urged the Minister on multiple occasions throughout the pandemic to implement a crucial Self Isolation Grant here. Her last response made a vague acknowledgement that such a scheme would remain under review.
“We remain the only devolved administration not to offer this crucial grant. By making self-isolation financially unviable we run the risk of putting people in the desperate situation of choosing between protecting others from the risk of Covid-19 or providing for themselves and their families.”
“While I have no doubt that the Discretionary Support, non-repayable living expense grant, has helped many which I have no doubt has helped many throughout the pandemic it does have marked limitations. Eligibility criteria is still contingent on a household income not exceeding £20, 400. As such this support completely fails to mitigate for many working households experiencing a reduction in pay as a result of Covid-19.
“Considering the continued restrictions here in Northern Ireland, the lack of a specific Self-Islolation Grant cannot be overlooked. People who are doing the right thing by self-isolating to prevent the spread of the virus should not have to do so to the detriment of their finances.”