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Covid-19: Isolation Support

Volume 689: debated on Tuesday 23 February 2021

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of isolation support for people who have tested positive for covid-19. (912264)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of isolation support for people who have tested positive for covid-19. (912272)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of isolation support for people who have tested positive for covid-19. (912293)

The Government have put together a range of measures to support people through the current crisis. These include Test and Trace support payments for those on low incomes, support for renters, help with utilities, the £500 million local authority hardship grant, the £170 million covid winter grant scheme and a £7.4 billion package of additional welfare support in 2021. The Government keep all elements of their covid response under review, as is right, to support people.

I thank the Minister for providing that information, but the lack of financial support to those self-isolating has resulted in an extremely low adherence rate. Seventy per cent. of those who apply for financial support are rejected. Will the Government consider increasing funding to cash-strapped local authorities to ensure that people have the financial means to self-isolate to control the spread of the virus?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We are continuing to work across Departments and with local authorities to monitor the effectiveness of the self-isolation support provided to people who have tested positive, their close contacts and their families. She is right that we continually look at this to ensure that we have the correct information. Currently, with NHS Test and Trace, we are carrying out surveys of reported compliance with self-isolation for people who have tested positive. The results are not published yet, but we have a clear set of parameters and the funding has been allocated to councils to assist with discretionary grants. Those are local decisions, and I have often heard it said that decisions should be local, but I ask her to wait until my right hon. Friend the Chancellor reports during the Budget next week on what additional support we will be giving.

Last November, I wrote to the Health Secretary to raise a number of serious concerns that have been raised with me by many of my constituents who are unable to claim their self-isolation support payment because of failings with the privately run Test and Trace system. Three months later, I have still not had a response. We all know how keen the Health Secretary is to avoid scrutiny of the contracts that his Department have issued, but he cannot bury his head in the sand and pretend that these problems do not exist. Can I get an assurance from the Minister that I will get a response and that the problems that I have raised will be addressed?

The Health Secretary has assured me that he has seen the hon. Gentleman’s letter. It is important that people understand that they need to self-isolate and they are given the right assistance. This is why the discretionary payments have been made to councils, so that we can make those decisions locally to support people.

Let us head up to Bolton, to Yasmin Qureshi. [Interruption.] No, we cannot, so we will go first to shadow Minister Justin Madders.

The Government’s road map yesterday said:

“While self-isolation is critically important to halting the spread of the disease, it is never easy for those affected.”

We agree with that. We have been making that point for months, along with most of the expert advisers in the Government, which is why creating a scheme that only one in eight people qualify for was never going to work. Will the Minister tell us why, despite yesterday’s announcement, it is still the case that only one in eight people who test positive will actually qualify for a self-isolation payment?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. It is important that we have targeted support and that we support the people who need assistance, so that they can self-isolate. It is, exactly as I outlined in my first answer, what we have been doing, and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, we will continue to look after people through the pandemic. Our undertaking is to make sure that we protect people, whether they are self-isolating or unable to work for other reasons, such as shielding, throughout the duration of the pandemic. The hon. Gentleman will be hearing much more about that from the Chancellor next week during the Budget.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. My constituent, a shop worker, has a daughter who was sent home from school to isolate. She will not get paid, will not get sick pay and is worried about losing her job. She needs money to put food on the table for her family. Will the Minister tell the Chancellor that we cannot keep the infection rate down if people are not given adequate financial support?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I would also like to point out that, in her area, 93% of cases are being tracked and people are being spoken to, which highlights the great work that is being done on the ground locally in that area. We are providing support, and I would urge her constituent to reach out to the council, because it is important that we give people the support they need in order to isolate. As I say, she will be hearing more on that subject from the Chancellor during the Budget next week.