Universal Credit: Self-isolation rules come into force today – you may get a £500 payment

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Universal Credit claimants and other people on low incomes may be able to receive a payment of £500 from the government if they are required to self-isolate due to coronavirus. From today, there is a legal requirement for people to self-isolate in England if they test positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

The £500 payment will be issued to those who are unable to work while self-isolating.

Local authorities will be working to set up the payment schemes and the government expects them to be fully in place by October 12.

Anyone told to self-isolate from today will receive backdated payments (so long as they’re eligible) once the scheme is live in their local authority.

Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, provided the following comments when introducing the new plans: “Anyone can catch coronavirus and anyone can spread it.

“We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down and protecting our loved ones.

“As cases rise it is imperative we take action, and we are introducing a legal duty to self-isolate when told to do so, with fines for breaches and a new £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who can’t work from home while they are self-isolating.

“These simple steps can make a huge difference to reduce the spread of the virus, but we will not hesitate to put in place further measures if cases continue to rise.”

On top of the new rules, additional resources will be committed to ensure people are complying with the rules.

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The following will be introduced to ensure compliance:

  • NHS Test and Trace call handlers will be increasing contact with those self-isolating
  • using police resources to check compliance in highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence
  • investigating and prosecuting high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance
  • acting on instances where third parties have identified others who have tested positive but are not self-isolating

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The fines for breaking these rules will start at £1,000 but it could be increased to £10,000 for repeat offences and the most serious breaches.

Additionally, employers who force or allow staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating will also be liable for fines of up to £10,000.

These new rules are being introduced only in England initially but they may be introduced elsewhere if need be.

Local councils will also have discretion on awarding payments to those who don’t receive the qualifying benefits, but are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.

The criteria for people to receive self-isolation payments are as follows:

  • have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they’ve tested positive or are the close contact of a positive case
  • are employed or self-employed
  • are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
  • 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

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