Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scottish Welfare Fund statutory guidance

Guidance covering the Scottish Welfare Fund and Self-Isolation Support Grant (SISG).

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COVID-19 Self Isolation Support Grants

Individuals who lose income as a result of staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic

We have committed to providing a Self-Isolation Support Grant (SISG) to workers who earn less than the Real Living Wage (RLW) or are in receipt of a low income benefit, and who will experience reduced earnings as a result of them, their child or the person they are caring for being required to self-isolate or advised to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID- 19.

The value of the award was £500 until 30 April 2022. From 1 May 2022, the value of the award was £225. The value of the SISG was revised to better reflect the loss of income and align with the health policy intention to transition workers back to pre-Covid sickness arrangements. From 18 October 2022, the revised value of the award is £250 to reflect an increase in the Real Living Wage hourly rate announced by the Living Foundation.

The award supports people who would otherwise struggle to be able to afford to comply with the requirement to self-isolate or stay at home. It will provide them with the financial support they need to meet their basic needs during the period in which they are unable to work.

These payments are designed to help ensure workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 through a PCR test, and their close contacts when needed, stay at home to stop the onward spread of the virus. They are also designed to encourage individuals who are eligible for this payment to get tested if they have symptoms. This is important to help stop the transmission of COVID-19 and avoid further economic and societal restrictions.

The SISG does not cover people who are waiting for a test result or self-isolating after returning to the UK from abroad, unless they have tested positive for coronavirus or from 13 October 2021 are not fully vaccinated with the coronavirus vaccine and have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by the Test and Protect Service (or equivalent service across the UK).

From 6 January 2022 the SISG does not cover people who are fully vaccinated or treated as fully vaccinated as defined by public health guidance and are waiting for a test result or self-isolating after being identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

From 7 March 2022 individuals are not required to isolate because they are not fully vaccinated but have themselves had a confirmed COVID-19 infection in the last 28 days and have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 by the Test and Protect Service (or equivalent service across the UK).

The scheme started on 28 September 2020, and local authorities had arrangements in place to administer payments by 12 October 2020. Someone told to self-isolate on or after 28 September (but before the scheme is operational in their local authority) will need to be able to make a backdated claim for payment.

Eligibility for the scheme will be amended periodically to align with the changing Test and Protect isolation requirements or advice to stay at home.

Eligibility for the scheme was expanded on 7 December 2020 to include: 1) parents or primary carers of children required to isolate, and 2) applicants who would ordinarily have an underlying eligibility for Universal Credit (based on earnings prior to the self-isolation request period), who experience a reduction in earnings as a result of being asked to self-isolate. Backdated applications (28 September – 6 December) from applicants who would qualify for the SISG following changes made on the 7 December are not currently being accepted. There will be scope on a discretionary basis for retrospective revisions of decisions involving those parents or primary carers of children required to isolate who had applied prior to 7 December and were refused solely on that ground.

Eligibility for the scheme was expanded further on 16 February 2021 to include: 1) applicants who are in receipt of means-tested Council Tax Reduction, 2) applicants who earn the Real Living Wage or less or whose household income is less than Universal Credit + 25% for their circumstances, 3) carers of adults required to isolate, and 4) a widening of the application period to 28 calendar days from being told to self-isolate. Someone told to self-isolate on or after 2 February (but before the extension is operational in their local authority area) will need to be able to make a backdated claim for payment.

Eligibility for the scheme was changed further on 1 May 2022 to enable individuals who have had a positive PCR test are eligible when advised by Test and Protect to stay at home.

The Scottish Welfare Fund will be the legislative and delivery mechanism for SISG in the form of Crisis Grants, as they are designed to provide occasional support to people facing immediate financial need which poses a risk to their health and wellbeing. 

The legislative requirements governing the provision of Crisis Grants, set out in the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Regulations 2016 still apply to these awards. Applicants should be aged 16 years or older, live in the local authority area in which the application is being made and meet the initial eligibility checks set out at 5.4 with the exception of the requirement to assess whether the applicant has savings or capital or some other source of help that they could use instead. 

Decisions should be made by the end of the working day (as defined in 7.32) following the day on which the application is made provided that all of the information required to determine eligibility is available. It is accepted that the nature of this scheme means that it will not always be possible to achieve this timeframe but local authorities should take all reasonable steps to do so.

We have agreed with COSLA that local authorities will receive and process SISG applications and will make an award of £500 (£225 from 1 May 2022, £250 from 18 October 2022) to eligible applicants each distinct time they are asked to self-isolate or advised to stay at home and in respect of each eligible applicant within that household who has been asked to self-isolate or advised to stay at home through Test and Protect (or equivalent service across the UK). People in the same household can make an individual application to receive the payment, if they each meet the eligibility criteria.

We have committed to providing funding for both the programme and administration costs for these payments in addition to the main SWF budget to ensure the effective delivery of this policy. Local authorities will be reimbursed for each award paid.

The payments are designed to support people with low incomes who will experience a reduction in earnings as a result of having to self-isolate or stay at home as advised. As such HMRC has advised that the payment will be subject to income tax.

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