Government's £180 compensation for self-isolating in local lockdown areas branded a 'slap in the face'

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
A sign is seen at the entrance of a Job Centre Plus office, amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain, August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A COVID-19 sign is seen at the entrance of a Job Centre Plus office in London. (Reuters)

Health secretary Matt Hancock has defended the level of compensation payments for people who have to self-isolate, but a council leader in one of the pilot areas has branded them “a slap in the face”.

The government's financial compensation scheme for people forced to self-isolate in local lockdown areas has been criticised for being too low for anyone to live on.

Under the scheme, which comes in on 1 September, people on either universal credit or working tax credit, who test positive for coronavirus and are required to self-isolate for 10 days in areas that are locked down will be entitled to claim £130 if they are unable to work from home.

Other members of their household – who must self-isolate for 14 days under the current rules – are entitled to a payment of £182.

But Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Borough Council which is one of the areas where the scheme is being piloted, said the level of financial support is “not acceptable”.

The Labour councillor told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “The figures that the government have introduced are really a slap in the face for those people who sadly test positive and there is no incentive in my opinion for those people to self-isolate.

“If you’re a manual worker who’s not able to do their job from home, normally getting paid the living wage or the minimum wage, the government are now going to say to you we’ll pay you £4.55 an hour. Not acceptable.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also said the payment “goes nowhere near far enough”, adding that anyone forced to stay at home need “full pay”.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the level of payment for those told to self-isolate. (Twitter)
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the level of payment for those told to self-isolate. (Twitter)

He said: "I am pleased they have at last acknowledged this issue but am sorry to say this move goes nowhere near far enough.

"The health secretary has already said that he couldn't live on statutory sick pay at £95 a week. So how can an announcement like this work?”

Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding also welcomed the financial support for residents, who face tighter restrictions due to higher COVID-19 rates, but added: “Sadly this offer is nowhere near enough to provide real support, and it shows how out of touch with ordinary people this government is…

“People should not have to worry about loss of income whilst being asked to self-isolate.

“Oldham residents have pulled together to face this crisis; we now need government do to their bit.

“We need a real and meaningful offer of support for Oldham residents, who deserve better.”

Defending the level of payment, Hancock said the extra financial support was “set at the level of statutory sick pay”.

Asked during an appearance on BBC Breakfast if £13 a day was enough, Hancock said they were “in addition” to other benefits that people on low incomes receive.

When it was put to him that people self-isolating would be losing income from their jobs, Hancock said: “Only in some cases, but absolutely we acknowledge that.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street, amid the coronavirus outbreak, in London, Friday, May 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Health secretary Matt Hancock defended the level of compensation payments for people self-isolating. (AP)

“It’s set at the level of statutory sick pay in order to make sure that people don’t lose out from doing the right thing.”

Areas in England currently affected by local lockdown include parts of Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and West Yorkshire, where people must not meet other households indoors or in private gardens.

Meanwhile, people in Blackburn and Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham face tighter restrictions and are prevented from socialising outside their household, while public transport is only to be used if essential.

Reacting to the government’s compensation announcement, Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said: “Labour has been warning for months that the government needs to make sure that people can afford to do the right thing, but once again ministers have taken far too long to realise there’s a problem.”

A sign shows traffic where to turn to enter a COVID-19 testing centre in Oldham, Greater Manchester, northwest England on August 20, 2020. - Oldham, as of Thursday, has one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 infections, and could be subject to a imposed Local Lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP) (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign shows traffic where to turn to enter a COVID-19 testing centre in Oldham, as tighter restrictions were put in place. (Getty)

She added: “It’s concerning that this will only apply to a limited number of areas with high rates of COVID-19.

“The instruction to self-isolate applies to everyone in the country, so everyone should get the support they need to self-isolate.”

Yahoo News UK has contacted poverty charity the Trussell Trust for a comment.

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