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Workers in ‘postcode lottery’ for self-isolation payments

Test and Trace staff at a centre in Liverpool. More testing is now being rolled out
Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

The government should “urgently review” its £500 compensation scheme for workers who have been asked to self isolate by NHS Test and Trace, according to the CIPD.

The HR body sent Freedom of Information requests to 34 local authorities in England, which revealed that just one in three claims for the pay-out are successful. Ben Willmott, head of public policy, described it as a “postcode lottery”.

Working people are eligible for the £500 support payment if they have been asked to self-isolate and cannot work from home, so will lose income as a result of self-isolation. They or their partner must also be receiving benefits such as Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit.

The CIPD found that just 36% of applications for support payments made by working people who also claim benefits have been approved, while the figure for discretionary payments (for non-benefit claimants) is just 31%.

The government has recently announced it will step up its testing regime for those who cannot work from home, which is likely to lead to an increase in positive results and therefore demands to self-isolate.

The CIPD’s data revealed that Camden Council approved 75% of applications, Liverpool 23% and Sandwell Council just 16%.

There was also a huge variation in demand for testing in different areas. Liverpool, where mass testing was first piloted, received more than 5,000 claims for compensation under both the support payment and discretionary schemes, while Merton received 188, Westminster 160 and Richmondshire just 43.

The average number of claims made for the payments to each local authority contacted is 1,096, while the median is 719.5, the CIPD said.

Willmott added: “Lack of financial support threatens to significantly undermine the system at a time when the need for people to safely isolate at home is greater than ever before.

“The government should urgently review its operation with a view to ensuring consistency over the criteria used by councils for granting compensation payments.

“It must ensure that the eligibility criteria isn’t overly strict, ruling out deserving applicants who are trying to do the right thing and self-isolate under the government’s own advice. This is increasingly important with the recent announcement to test key workers who are unable to work from home.

“The review should also consider how the compensation scheme can be marketed more effectively to those told to self-isolate and, importantly, whether there is enough money allocated to councils to ensure the compensation scheme has sufficient funds for the months ahead given the surge in the pandemic and the latest lockdown.”

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