Money helping people with COVID-19 to self-isolate running out – councils warn
Funding for councils to support people with COVID-19 to self-isolate is fast running out, undermining efforts to contain the virus and minimise infection, a survey by the District Councils’ Network reveals today.
Councils were given £15 million by the government to set up discretionary schemes that make £500 Test and Trace support payments to people with a low-income who are required to self-isolate and unable to work from home. These payments are for people that are not able to access support from the main payment scheme for those on in-work benefits.
A third of district councils who responded to the survey expect this money to run out before Christmas while a further 16 per cent say it will not last beyond January. Nearly 5 per cent said they had already run out of funding.
It was originally anticipated by government that the funding would last until 31 January.
The DCN, which represents 187 district councils in England, is warning that without additional top-up funding councils will have no choice but to begin closing schemes, putting efforts to support people to self-isolate and contain the virus at risk.
It also says councils are experiencing a far greater volume of cases than they were told to expect and prepare for.
There are concerns that with mass testing being rolled out in tier 3 areas, even greater numbers will be required to self-isolate and will come forward for the discretionary support.
The DCN is calling on government to urgently provide further funding and to broaden the eligibility so people get support to self-isolate and reduce the risk of spreading infection.
Cllr Giles Archibald, District Councils’ Network lead member for Better Lives said:
“District councils have been on the frontline fighting this virus since day one, and supporting residents and businesses throughout. Key to this has been supporting those facing financial hardship and helping them to do the right thing and follow the rules to keep everyone safe and minimise transmission of this deadly virus.
“However 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.
“This is vital funding to support those facing financial difficulty and to keep coronavirus at bay.
“We are also concerned that if the money runs out, infectious people will be tempted to go to work because it is the only way of paying the bills and meeting household costs.
“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.”
Notes to editors
DCN survey of District Councils on the Test and Trace support payments scheme from a base of 85 council responses.
Almost 5% have exhausted all of the discretionary T&T support payments scheme.
Of those that have not yet exhausted all of the funding:
33% will in December 2020
16% in January 2021
7% in February 2021
7% in March 2021
37% don’t know when it will be exhausted
The District Councils’ Network (DCN) is a cross-party member led network providing a single voice to 187 district councils. District councils in England deliver 86 out of 137 essential local government services to over 22 million people – 40 per cent of the population – and cover 68 per cent of the country by area. They play a key role in local communities, providing services such as building homes, collecting waste, regenerating town centres, preventing homelessness, keeping streets clean and maintaining parks.
Date: December 2020