Online only; updated 22/10/20

Payment for self-isolation

PEOPLE IN ENGLAND who are on low incomes and who are told to self-isolate because of covid-19 from Monday 28 September will be able to claim £500.

The best the Freelance initially found on this on the central website is a Downing Street press release, which focuses on fines for those who fail to self-isolate. We have no reason, however, to doubt this statement of the rules from the Daily Mirror. It is confirmed by this document dated 12 October 2020.

You will have to fulfil all four of these criteria to receive the payment:

  • You are currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit;
  • You are employed or self-employed;
  • You are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result; and
  • You have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace - either for 10 days because you've tested positive, or for 14 days because you are the close contact of a positive case.

22 October Local councils' websites have application forms. See here for links to London borough council sites and here for all councils by postcode.

You will need to show evidence when you apply:

  • Your National Insurance number:
  • A notification from Test and Trace asking you to self-isolate (including a Unique ID number);
  • A bank statement;
  • If you are self-employed, evidence of this: business account bank statements or copies of self-assessment returns, for example. (If you are employed you need proof of this, such as a payslip, with a contact for your employer so that it can confirm that you are unable to work from home.)

You need to apply within 14 days of the end of your isolation period.

The deadline for claiming the second SEISS slice (whether or not you claimed the first) was 19 October. Check here where we will give details of how to apply for the third slice as soon as we have them.

Dan Bloom reports in the Mirror that "the government insists people will receive the £500 payment on top of any Statutory Sick Pay or benefits they receive." He adds that the payment system "is being run by cash-strapped local councils, and the government says it expects it to be up and running by 12 October".

This is going to leave a lot of people in genuine need without help, we fear. It seems that, as with SEISS, the criteria are a database query rewritten in (a kind of) English. That is, the government is not giving people what we need. It's giving us what it can decide on without human intervention.

And in that title "NHS Test and Trace Self-Isolation Payment Scheme", "NHS Test and Trace" of course means "Test and Trace scheme not run by the NHS, but privatised". But that's another story...

Follow this link to skip our narrative of trying to find out how this works and go to what detail we have.

As a measure of how confused the government is, though, the only mention we find of the scheme title "NHS Test and Trace Self-Isolation Payment Scheme" in legislation is in the The Tax Credits (Coronavirus, Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2020. These indeed provide that "Any payment made under the scheme known as the NHS Test and Trace Self-Isolation Payment Scheme established on 1st September 2020 in respect of England or under any similar scheme established in respect of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland" is added to the list of "disregarded" income.

28 September 2020, 15:30

We have the legislation setting out penalties for failure to self-isolate, which took effect at midnight, in the shape of the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020. Oddly, these do not apply to people who are requested to self-isolate through or by the so-called "NHS Covid 19 smartphone app" (not an NHS product and not available from any UK government website.) There is a rather odd attempt at removing the risk that you incriminate yourself (for purposes other than the Regulations) through information you provide to tracers.

But we still cannot see an actual legal basis for the proposed payments.

3 October 2020, 16:30

This morning we received "The Social Security Contributions (Disregarded Payments) (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2020" - allegedly laid before Parliament on 1 October. They provide that "test and trace support payments" paid by local authorities in England to people who have been required to self-isolate due to coronavirus will be disregarded when calculating the amount of earnings for the purposes of calculating liability to pay primary and secondary Class 1 National Insurance contributions... and that Class 1A contributions are not payable on such payments. There's a policy paper too.

Note the different name for the scheme (which may conceivably herald a parallel scheme).

Class 1 National Insurance contributions are paid only by employees and Class 1A by their employers. It seems that self-employed people may in theory be liable to pay Class 4 contributions on any test and trace support payments - though we think few people, if any, will both be liable to pay these and entitled to Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit.

We still find no legislation to implement the scheme itself. This regulation comes into force on 22 October 2020 - which may provide a clue on the timing of further announcements. Many local authorities have posted holding pages, some saying "send us your address and we'll contact you when we know how you apply."

13 October 2020, 13:30

Some local authorities have opened their application processes - for example Camden and Cambridge, which refers to "Coronavirus self-isolation payments". You need to keep checking your local authority website (in London, your Borough website: see this list).

Since you need to apply within 14 days of the end of your isolation period, if people who self-isolated for 10 days from 28 September are not to lose out, all councils must open applications by 22 October. The scheme is currently set to run until 31 January 2021.

22 October 2020, 21:00

The local authorities that we have checked (the first dozen found with this search) have launched online application processes. We still can't see a statutory basis for the payments. (One council's page had already moved.)

The money should be paid into a bank account. Central Bedfordshire Council is one of those that gives necessary advice on how to get the money if your bank account is overdrawn when you apply. Some simply refer you to the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Please contact the Freelance if your local authority application does not work.

The following link also describes discretionary payments from local councils.