COVID-19 Self Isolation Support Grants
Individuals who lose income as a result of self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Scottish Government has committed to providing a Self-Isolation Support Grant (SISG) of £500 to workers who earn less than the Real Living Wage 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 to prevent the spread of COVID- 19. This will support people who would otherwise struggle to be able to afford to comply with the requirement to self-isolate. It will provide them with the financial support they need to meet their basic needs during the 10-day period in which they are unable to work.
These payments are designed to help ensure workers who have tested positive for COVID-19, and their close contacts, self-isolate for the required period 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 have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by the Test and Protect Service (or equivalent service across the UK).
The scheme starts from 28 September 2020, and local authorities should have 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 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.
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.
The Scottish Government has agreed with COSLA that local authorities will receive and process SISG applications and will make an award of £500 to eligible applicants each distinct time they are asked to self-isolate and in respect of each eligible applicant within that household who has been asked to self-isolate through Test & 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.
The Scottish Government has 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. As such HMRC has advised that the payment will be subject to income tax.