Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-isolation) (Scotland) Bill.
Protection for Health Boards from a potential liability of hundreds of millions of pounds will remain in place, after legislation was unanimously passed in the Scottish Parliament today.
The Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-isolation) (Scotland) Bill will ensure Health Boards continue to have a choice, rather than be under a duty, to provide compensation to anyone asked to self-isolate due to COVID-19. The existing support for those isolating to prevent further transmission of the virus will remain available through the Self-Isolation Support Grant and associated support services.
The Bill extends a modification, made by the UK Coronavirus Act 2020, to the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008, until October.
Indicative analysis from the Scottish Government suggests that this move avoids a potential liability for Health Boards of £320 million a year.
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery John Swinney said:
“This requirement was intended to apply to small scale outbreaks such as ecoli, where a small number of households may have to isolate for a short period of time and lose out on income as a result. It was never intended to apply in a global pandemic.
“Existing support for self-isolation, which includes the Self-Isolation Support Grant - a £500 payment for those earning less than the real living wage - will ensure households can isolate, where necessary, to stop transmission of coronavirus.
“This Bill protects Health Boards from significant financial and administrative burdens, to the tune of around £320 million, at a time when they are rightly focused on providing essential care and navigating out of the pandemic.
“That is not a burden that Health Boards can afford. This Bill enables the current arrangements to remain in place, with regard to COVID-19, whilst ensuring that the focus remains on the provision of essential care.”
Specific support for households affected by COVID-19 is available through the Self-Isolation Support Grant. Low income workers earning the real living wage or less who will lose income as a result of having to self-isolate, or having to care for a child under 16 who has to self-isolate can apply for the £500 grant.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, health boards were required to compensate people who they asked to self-isolate due to an infectious disease. This was required by the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 changed this. The 2020 Act let health boards decide whether people who are self-isolating as a result of an infectious disease should receive compensation under the 2008 Act. The relevant provision of the 2020 Act will expire in March 2022.
The Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-isolation) (Scotland) Bill changes the law so that health boards will still have the option to provide compensation to those self-isolating due to COVID-19, but will return to being under a duty to pay compensation in respect of other infectious diseases. However, with respect to COVID-19 isolation only, they will not be obliged to do so.
The law will apply until 31 October 2022. The Bill allows for the Scottish Government to reduce or extend that period if required by regulations, with an extension requiring an affirmative vote of the Parliament and for a Statement of Reasons to be laid before the Parliament, which will include reasons for making regulations urgently in the event the made affirmative procedure is used.
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