Millions of Brits to be paid £500 to quarantine – and face up to £10,000 fines if they don't
MILLIONS of families on low incomes in England will be paid up to £500 if they have to quarantine to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The payments will be made available to those on certain benefits who will see incomes drop as a result of having to self-isolate.
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The government is also introducing new laws that will see anyone – not just those on benefits – slapped with a £10,000 fine if they ignore calls to quarantine.
Brits who have been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace team are required to self-isolate for 14 days in a bid to reduce the risk of spreading the deadly Covid-19.
Many low-income employees earning less than £120 a week aren't entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) when they take time off.
There are fears people are ignoring the instructions because their income will be cut if they do – or they just don't want to.
It is against the law not to quarantine when told to but there isn't much to enforce the rules at the moment.
Tougher regulations are being introduced after the Prime Minister said "there's no question" that the UK is seeing a second wave of coronavirus infections, with new cases doubling every week.
He is expected to address the nation next week, possibly Tuesday.
On the new measures, Boris Johnson said: "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.
"And 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."
Here we take you through everything you need to know about the extra payments and when you could be fined.
Who can get a £500 payment for self-isolating?
If you've been told to quarantine by the NHS Test and Trace scheme then you may be eligible for extra help.
Those who test positive for the virus must self-isolate for 10 days, while those who have come into close contact with someone who has it must quarantine for 14 days.
Just fewer than 4million people on benefits in England will be eligible to the extra payment if they're told to self-isolate, according to the government.
You will be eligible to claim the payment if you work full-time, part-time, self-employed or unemployed and you receive on of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Working tax credits
- Income support
- Pension credit
- Housing benefit
The payments are only available to those who can't work from home and will lose income as a result.
You will only get the payment if you have been asked by the official NHS Test and Trace team to self-isolate.
If you decide you have to quarantine because you are displaying symptoms, then you won't be eligible for the funds, even though you're following the guidance.
When will they payments start and how do I apply?
The payments will be available to anyone who has to self-isolate from September 28 onwards.
But you'll need to wait until your period of self-isolation is over before making a claim.
They will be managed by local authorities, like payment scheme trialled in Oldham, Blackburn and Pendal, but the system isn't expected to be running until October 12.
What is statutory sick pay (SSP)?
IF you’re too sick to work, you may qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) from your employer.
To qualify for sick pay, you must work for an employer and earn on average at least £120 per week (£6,240 per year).
The weekly rate for statutory sick pay is £95.85 for up to 28 weeks, although most employers will pay more than this.
From April 16, employers were told to start paying sick pay to those who were shielding from the first day an employee was off work.
Businesses didn't have to pay any money for someone who was shielding before this date. This scheme ended on August 1.
To qualify, you will need to have been off work due to illness or self-isolate due to coronavirus for at least four days in a row.
You won't qualify if you've already received the maximum amount of pay – which is 28 weeks.
You also won't qualify if you're getting Statutory Maternity Pay.
Anyone who falls ill after the scheme launches but before the system is running will receive a backdated payment.
When making a claim, you'll have to provide evidence of the notification from NHS test and trace, such as a text message, as well as a bank statement to show your income has fallen.
Employed people will be asked to show proof of employment, for example your contract or payslip, and that you can't carry out your job from home.
Self-employed people will need to show evidence of their trading income and that their business cannot be carried out without social contact.
The payments won't affect any other benefits you are claiming, such as Universal Credit, and it will be on top of any sick pay you are entitled to.
What if I don't qualify but I still lose income?
The government says that councils will be given a discretionary fund that can be used to help those who've fallen between the gaps.
For example, it will help families who are in low pay jobs but don't claim benefits.
These will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
What about the £10,000 fines?
From September 28, those who ignore the self-isolation laws could be slapped with a £1,000 fine if caught, and up to £10,000 for repeat offences.
What to do if you don’t get statutory sick pay?
THOSE who have been told to stay at home by NHS test and trace and fear they will lose income can get help with their finances. Here’s how:
- Universal credit – You can apply for Universal Credit, which you're now able to do online.
- Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank which will provide you with help for free – but you must be referred to it by a doctor, jobcentre or social worker. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
- If you're renting, speak to your landlord – A ban on evictions has been extended until September 20 in England and Wales, so your landlord can't kick you out of your home if you're struggling. But you have to set up an affordable repayment plan with your landlord, which takes your circumstances into account. It's best to pay as much as you can, when you can, to stop arrears building up.
- If you're paying a mortgage, ask your bank for a three-month mortgage holiday – The payment freeze has been pushed until October 31 this year. We've created a guide of how to apply for one.
- Payment holidays – You can get a three-month payment holiday on your loans and credit cards, and you have until October 31 2020 to request one. Here's how to apply for one.
People who stop those required to quarantine can also be fined, such as businesses who threaten redundancy if staff can't come into work because they've been told to self-isolate.
Holidaymakers who refuse to follow the rules when they return from a country not on the UK's air bridge list already face these penalties.
To make sure that Brits are taking the law seriously, NHS Test and Trace teams will regularly call those who've been asked to self-isolate.
They will be able to report and suspicions they are breaking the rules to the police or local authorities.
Police will also have the power to check on those who've been asked to self-isolate in high-risk areas, or if they've been tipped off that someone isn't quarantining when they should.
But the government's NHS Test and Trace system has been slammed "shambolic" by critics and could be outsourced to Amazon.
Demand for tests has also increased and many have been unable to access swab kits.
Despite the Government reopening schools and urging people to return to the office, the head of Test and Trace yesterday said that no one was expecting “really sizeable increase in demand”.
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