Introduction and policy background
This Bill seeks to remedy a legal liability that arises as a result of the temporary modifications made to the Public Health Etc (Scotland) Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”) by the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the UK Act”) expiring or ceasing to have effect. The 2008 Act includes a duty on Health Boards to pay compensation to a person who receives a written request from the Board to be quarantined, be excluded from entering or remaining in a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity. This duty was changed to be discretionary during the pandemic by the UK Act.
Had the modification not been put in place, Health Boards would have been liable to pay compensation to anybody who received a written request from them to be quarantined, be excluded from entering or remaining in a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity. As self-isolation has been one of the key tools in the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic, this modification is thought to have protected each Health Board in Scotland from a very significant financial and administrative burden.
The Scottish Government has ensured that alternative financial and practical support has been in place during the pandemic for those in need. For example, the Self-Isolation Support Grant provides £500 to workers who lose income as a result of self-isolating and earn the Real Living Wage or less. For those isolating for a 48 hour period before receiving a PCR test, a loss of income must be demonstrated. The Grant is also available to those who are in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) or other low income benefits or whose family income is within 25 per cent of UC rates.
In addition, the Scottish Government continues to fund the National Assistance Helpline and the Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service, ensuring pro-active and reactive phone calls to people self-isolating to ensure they can access practical and financial support they require whilst self-isolating. Through the Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service, practical support is also available, including support with access to food, essential medication or other local and voluntary services provided locally
This modifications to the 2008 Act only have effect while schedule 21 of the UK Act remains in force and the statutory declaration made under that schedule remains in place. The declaration is to the effect that Scottish Ministers are of the view that:
a. the powers in schedule 21 of the UK Act remain a suitable means to reduce transmission of Covid; and b. Covid is a serious and imminent threat to public health. The declaration must be revoked if the Scottish Ministers consider that one or both of these conditions cease to be met.
If this modification to the 2008 Act is no longer in force, a Health Board would be liable to pay compensation to a person who receives a written request from the Board to be quarantined, be excluded from entering or remaining in a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity. Health Boards would also be liable to compensate the carers of people who receive such a written request.
The Scottish Government wants to continue to protect Health Boards from financial or administrative liabilities that arise from the ongoing self-isolation policy, while ensuring that financial assistance is available to those most in need.
Our proposal is therefore to maintain the modifications made to the 2008 Act, so that a Health Board may pay compensation to a person who receives a written request from the Board to be quarantined, be excluded from entering or remaining in a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity, and the carers of such a person, but the Board is not under an obligation to do so.
This will enable us to focus on continuing to provide financial and practical assistance to people who self-isolate due to Covid, without increasing the financial and administrative burden on Health Boards, which are playing a critical role in our pandemic response.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback