Less than 150 of North Herts’ low income individuals can apply for £500 self-isolation fund

A £500 self-isolation fund has been launched by the government that will help 134 people in total in North Herts. Picture:...

A £500 self-isolation fund has been launched by the government that will help 134 people in total in North Herts. Picture: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo - Credit: AP

Documents published by North Herts District Council have revealed that 134 people on low incomes in the district will be able to receive a discretionary £500 self-isolation fund.

People in the district who claim benefits, are required to self–isolate and cannot work from home are eligible to apply for a £500 payment to help with their finances.

£50 million has been set aside for this scheme nationally, and local authorities such as North Herts have been allocated funds from this central government grant.

But, NHDC documents reveal that the £67,295 they have been provided by the government will amount to 84 ‘standard’ payments of £500 and 50 payments under the discretionary scheme.

In total, 0.1 per cent of North Hertfordshire’s total population will be eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support payment.

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From September, 28 everyone was required by law to self–isolate if; they test positive for COVID–19, they have come into contact with someone who tested positive, or if they live with someone who tests positive.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 1.52 million people were unemployed in the UK from June to August 2020.

The £500 Test and Trace support payment scheme was first announced in late September, with the government stating that around four million people will be able to benefit from the scheme.

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But, there are concerns from some within the district that with the rapid increase in cases locally, this government funding may soon be exhausted.

Cllr Sam Collins, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden, said: “I thought this was an error when I first saw it, just 84 people in the main group and 50 others.

“After so much fanfare from the government about protecting people’s jobs and livelihoods, once again this funding seems to fall well short of the mark.

“With the sad increase in cases in our area, this funding will be gone in a flash leaving many people with no support.”

Within the same document, the council says that data modelling suggests they will receive an average of two applications a day for this £500 payment. Individuals can claim for this payment multiple times if they are forced to self–isolate again.

Speaking at the launch of this self–isolation funding package last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus.

“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives.

“While most people are doing their absolute level best to comply with the rules, I don’t want to see a situation where people don’t feel they are financially able to self-isolate. “That’s why we introduced the £500 test and trace support payment for those on low incomes who are required by NHS Test and Trace to remain at home to help stop the spread of the virus.”

Cllr Ian Albert, NHDC executive member for finance and IT, said: “We welcome these one off Test and Trace Support Scheme payments for residents who are on a low income and need to self isolate.

“Currently as administrators of the scheme, we have been provided with £42,000 from central Government for those who are eligible to receive help under the standard version of this scheme – this is for people who are already in receipt of a benefit and therefore already identified as being on a low income.

“If all of this money is claimed then the funding will be topped up by central Government and will not run out for claimants.

“But under the discretionary version of the scheme we have been provided with £25,295. We will use this to distribute to people whose income is just above the minimum amount, and are unable to work at home, facing financial hardship as a result. This funding will not be topped up by central Government if it is all claimed.

“As an administration we believe that this is wrong! Hardship like this should not be the subject of arbitrary cash limited pots. We will press the Government to change their mind on this.

“However, there may be less claims for the discretionary fund as people on a lower income could already be in receipt of other support. We urge those who think they may qualify for this funding scheme, which will currently run until the end of January next year, and that are doing the right thing by self isolating where necessary, to get in touch with us to find out if they are eligible.”

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