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Source: Labour List UK

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Anneliese Dodds has called on the government to “overhaul the broken system” for people told to self-isolate and expand the NHS Test and Trace support payment of £500 to those notified via the NHS Covid-19 app.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the Shadow Chancellor argued that “isolation is currently the weakest part of the government’s shambolic test, trace and isolate programme” and urged her opposite number to offer better support.

The intervention from Dodds follows research carried out by the Department for Health and Social Care that shows just 11% of people asked to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app have done so, undermining efforts to tackle the health crisis.

Those told to stay at home via a notification through the app are not currently able to apply for the £500 support available to those contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace. Labour has called for improvements to the system on three fronts by:

  • Expand eligibility by giving every eligible user of the NHS Covid-19 app access to test and trace support and suspending the no recourse to public funds rule for the scheme;
  • Reduce the isolation period by boosting testing capacity to cut the isolation period from 14 days to an initial target of ten days, targeted initially to the health and care workforce and areas where mass testing is in place; and
  • Improve communication with a proper national and local communications strategy to advertise what support is available for people to self-isolate.”

Commenting today on the challenge facing those told to self-isolate, Dodds said: “The Prime Minister is lucky he can self-isolate from the comfort of his home and carry on working, but for many people that’s not an option.

“He should use his own period of self-isolation to overhaul the broken system of support for those who run the risk of falling into debt by doing the right thing and staying home for two weeks.

“Everyone using the Covid-19 app who is eligible for self-isolation support should get it. And government must boost testing to cut the isolation period so they can get back to work sooner.”

The government announced in September that anyone required to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace would be eligible for a £500 payment if they are in work, cannot work from home and will lose income as a result of remaining at home.

Claimants have to be able to show that they are in receipt of Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income support, housing benefit and/or pension credit.

But government guidance states that individuals told to self-isolate by the NHS app, and who have not received a notification from NHS Test and Trace by email, phone call or text message, cannot currently apply for the £500 support payment.

The government instead provided local authorities with a fixed 5% top up in funding for the four months between October and January to make discretionary payments to those who have been required to self-isolate and cannot access the benefit.

The Resolution Foundation estimated that only one in eight workers are eligible for the £500 test and trace payment, describing the benefit as a “mess of a system providing too low or no support at all for people if we ask them to stay home”.

This has prompted concerns that, despite intention among the general population to self-isolate when necessary being high at around 70%, the lack of support has resulted in the much lower level of compliance – 11% – recorded by the department.

MIL OSI United Kingdom