Could I get £500 to self isolate? Leaked government plans for Covid isolation payment explained

Ministers have now claimed financial support for those asked to self-isolate is “always kept under review”

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 3:55 pm

A leaked document from the UK Department of Health has suggested that the government should pay £500 to anyone asked to self isolate, regardless of income.

This comes as figures reveal around 17 percent of workers are continuing to attend their workplace, despite testing positive for coronavirus.

The proposal has been largely downplayed by ministers, but could you be paid £500 to self isolate? This is what we know so far.

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The Health Secretary's department refused to address the proposals of the leaked document

What did the leaked document suggest?

The ‘options paper’ was drawn up by civil servants at The Department of Health, following growing concerns that underpaid and low income workers will not self isolate as they cannot afford to.

The grant was to be discussed by the Covid Operations committee - chaired by Michael Gove - this week, though Ministers have rushed to make clear that these proposals were yet to be seen by or discussed with the Prime Minister.

The proposals suggest that the government is concerned over a large number of people who are not staying at home - despite daily warnings to do so.

Could I be eligible for the payment?

In October, a £500 grant was made available to low income people who had to self isolate but could not work from home in England, as the requirement to stay home if asked to do so was made law.

However, this grant was to be issued at the discretion of local authorities, and figures obtained by Labour last week show the majority of applications for the grant were rejected.

Of 49,877 applications, only 12,069 were successful.

Therefore, this new grant which was pitched in the leaked document would be universally issued to anyone asked to isolate who could not work from home.

How much would the grant cost the government?

It has been calculated that the government would be required to issue an average of £453m per week.

Anyone contacted by Track and Trace, or who tests positive for coronavirus, must self isolate for 10 days under current guidelines.

On 21 January, Home Secretary Priti Patel introduced a new £800 charge for socialising at house parties, with an upper limit of £6,400 for repeat offenders.

At £453m per week, this could cost a staggering £4bn if implemented and continued until Easter - when lockdown is rumoured to be alleviated significantly.

How have ministers responded?

Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that financial support for those required to self-isolate was "always kept under review".

He agreed that self-isolation for people facing significant financial loss was "quite challenging".

Eustice added: "We've got to consider all sorts of policies in order to make sure that people abide by the rules, are able to abide by the rules and we get the infection rate down,

He also told that the sub-committee of the cabinet, which meets daily, would "weigh up the arguments for and against this before making any decision".

The Department of Health refused to comment on leaked documents, but did stress it was vitally important for people to stay at home.