Introduction and policy background
This consultation ran from August 27 to September 24 and was open to the public via https://consult.gov.scot/. The consultation principally related to extending the effects of temporary modifications made to the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008 ("the 2008 Act") by the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 ("the UK Act").
As described in the consultation paper, the 2008 Act confers a duty on Health Boards to pay compensation to a person who receives a written request from the Board to isolate, or to not attend or to leave a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity. This duty was temporarily suspended by the UK Act though a discretionary power for Health Boards to pay compensation remains.
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 the Health Board to isolate, or to not attend or to leave a specified place or refrain from carrying on any activity or type of activity. Policy development of the 2008 Act was focused on provisions that would provide effective public health intervention in relation to infectious diseases at much smaller scale than the pandemic. Modifications made by the UK Act were put in place to ensure that the Scottish Government could take a proportionate approach to providing support to people self-isolating whilst appropriately balancing the use of public resources.
To support people self-isolating throughout the Covid pandemic, the Scottish Government has implemented financial and practical support in lieu of the previous compensation scheme. 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. 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.
The Self-Isolation Support Grant has provided vital financial support for those on low incomes and need to isolate to control the spread of COVID-19. From 13 October 2021 people who are fully vaccinated and test negative no longer need to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case so the eligibility criteria for the Self-Isolation Support Grant has been changed to reflect this. We have protected those on lower incomes by continuing to include the £20 Universal Credit uplift within the calculation of low income despite the payments being removed by the UK Government.
In addition, the Scottish Government continues to fund the National Assistance Helpline and the Local Self-Isolation Assistance Service, ensuring that pro-active and reactive call services are available to triage the support requirements people may have relating to isolation and link people to relevant local services or to provide advice. Practical support provided includes access to food, essential medication or other local and voluntary services.
The 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:
- the powers in schedule 21 of the UK Act remain a suitable means to reduce transmission of COVID-19;
- COVID-19 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 isolate, or to not attend or to leave 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.
As set out in the consultation paper, the proposals put forward intend to ensure an appropriate balance of public resources, both financial and administrative, to meet the ongoing public health risks. If the suspension of the duty to provide full compensation to people asked to isolate in writing ceased to have effect, there would be a substantial financial and administrative impact on territorial Health Boards.
The proposals outlined in the consultation were to therefore 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 isolate, or to not attend or to leave 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.
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