High Risk but Low Income: New Payment Scheme Announced
Key contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Adam McGlynn
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced a new initiative to support those on low incomes and encourage them to adhere to government guidance. The Scheme will begin with a trial period in the North-West of England from 1 September and, if successful, will be quickly applied to other areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission. In his address, Health Secretary Matt Hancock explained that self-isolating continues to be vital for controlling local outbreaks and that this new payment will support people on low incomes who are unable to work as a result.
Who is eligible?
The eligibility criteria needs some expansion but for now it is clear that there are a number of boxes applicants will have to tick:
High risk area – The scheme is only being made available in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham, which have seen greater lockdown restrictions due to recent outbreaks. There is currently no further information on what other ‘high risk’ areas will be included or how an applicant’s geographical eligibility will be determined.
Employment – The individual must be employed or self-employed but unable to work from home which results in a loss of income. Evidence of employment/ trading income will be required for this and follow-up questions may be addressed to the applicant or their employer.
Low income – The applicant will need to be receiving Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit at the time of applying to be eligible.
Self-isolating – The individual must be self-isolating for one of the following reasons:
- They have tested positive for COVID-19;
- They share a household with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19; or
- They have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to recent contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Evidence – All required evidence must be provided including an NHS Test and Trace statement, a bank statement, and contact details. The local authority may check the NHS Test and Trace system for this, and other, information if the individual has difficulty providing evidence or if they suspect fraud.
On successful application, the individual will be entitled to £13 per day up to a maximum of £182. Those testing positive for COVID-19 are currently required to self-isolate for 10 days resulting in a payment of £130 and members of their household are currently required to self-isolate for 14 days equating to £182. Those instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace will be entitled to a payment tailored to the isolation period they have been notified with, up to the maximum of £182. Payments are made within 48 hours of completing the application and providing all necessary evidence.
Though the announcement does not expressly refer to statutory sick pay (SSP) it does state that this payment will “not reduce any other benefits”, suggesting that SSP will still be payable. Unfortunately, SSP is not a particularly substantial cushion when required to self-isolate, especially when the individual is already receiving a low income and when the period of self-isolation can last up to 14 days. This creates a conflict where the individual must decide between their financial needs and the risk they pose to others by continuing to work. Though the support provided by this additional payment is not particularly substantial either, it will hopefully encourage more to comply with government guidance and reduce the risk of transmission in high risk areas.
If you would like further guidance or support please contact our employment team.
Claire Knowles – Partner
Mark Alaszewski – Associate
Rebecca Mahon – Solicitor
Adam McGlynn – Trainee Solicitor