INFECTIOUS people have been refused £500 grants to help those on low incomes self-isolate as a THIRD of councils are running out of cash to fund the payments.
Ministers gave out £15 million to help look after poverty-stricken Brits forced to take time off work to self-isolate, but money has already dried up for a handful of councils – with more set to follow.
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The Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced earlier this year a national scheme which would pay people to self-isolate if they couldn't afford to do so.
The Government also handed out discretionary funds to councils to help people who fell through the cracks of the national scheme.
But soaring demand for people who don't meet the eligibility of the national scheme has meant Brits in some the worst-off areas are no longer able to access extra cash.
Plymouth council ran out of money a month ago to help those unable to make ends meet, and has been paying them out of their own pocket since then.
Charnwood Borough Council in Leicestershire, East Staffordshire Borough Council and Selby District Council in North Yorkshire have all been forced to stop taking applications for the self-isolation payments because of a lack of funds.
It has sparked fears people with coronavirus are spreading the illness because they cannot afford to stay at home.
FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS
A survey by the District Council Network found that out of 85 local authorities who responded, at least four had already run out of money.
And almost 30 more councils – roughly a third of respondents – expected to run out of money this month.
Another 13 said they would run out by the end of January, and 12 more said cash for those self-isolating would run dry by March.
Only on in eight workers were entitled to the £500 payment through the national scheme, which functions separately to the discretionary funds paid out by councils.
Mr Hancock announced last night, people told to self-isolate will now be able to claim the payment through the NHS Test & Trace app.
Who is eligible for self-iolation payments?
- If you have been to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app either because you have tested positive or a close contact has coronavirus
- You have responded to the messages from NHS Test and Trace with details of where you tested positive and your contacts
- you’re unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating
- you’re currently receiving, or are the partner of someone in the same household who is receiving, at least one of the following:
- Universal Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- income-based Employment and Support Allowance
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
In order to be eligible for the national scheme, people must be on benefits such as Universal Credit or Jobseeker's Allowance.
But the Local Government Association is pushing to expand the eligibility, over reports too many people were not able to access the fund.
They warned that the £15 million fund was whittled down to quite a small sum when spread across 300 councils across the country.
Councillor Giles Archibald, of the District Councils' Network, warned the Government will need to stump up more cash as they roll out mass testing – or risk pushing families further into poverty,
He said supporting those "facing financial hardship and helping them to do the right thing" was a key part of keeping new Covid cases down.
And he added: "We have concerns that the money we have to provide payments to those on low-incomes needing to self-isolate is about to run out.
“With mass testing being introduced in some areas, there is a risk that councils will be unable to provide financial support to households who need it.
“We need government to address this by providing new, additional funding, so we can continue to work together and get through the months ahead of a vaccine becoming widely available.”
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