11. Covid-19 Self-Isolation Support Grants
Individuals who lose income as a result of self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic
11.1 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.
11.2 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.
11.3 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).
11.4 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.
11.5 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.
11.6 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.
11.7 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.
11.8 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.
11.9 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.
11.10 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.
11.11 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.
11.12 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.
11.13 Applications may be made using a separate, shorter application process, recording the information required to establish eligibility and such other information as is required for national or local recording.
11.14 SISG will be available from 12 October. Applicants who were asked to self-isolate on or after 28 September can apply. Local authorities should not accept applications from people told to self-isolate before 28 September 2020, even if the period of self-isolation continues after 28 September. If such individuals are experiencing a financial crisis as a result of having self-isolated they may, of course, apply separately for a Crisis Grant. From the scheme launch on 12 October those who have been asked to self-isolate will have 14 days to make an application. However, those who have been asked to self-isolate on or after 28 September but before the scheme launch on 12 October will have 14 days from 12 October to make an application.
11.15 From 7 December the isolation period was reduced to 10 calendar days. Applicants who were asked to self-isolate between 7 December and 1 February will have 10 days to make an application.
11.16 From 16 February, applications can be made at any point during the 28 calendar days from the day they are told to self-isolate. Individuals who meet the revised criteria as outlined at 11.6 from 2 February will have 28 calendar days from 16 February to make an application.
11.17 Local Authorities will have discretion to make a SISG award to an applicant in exceptional circumstances, where factors beyond the person's control, mean that they were unable to apply, or unable to demonstrate that they were eligible within the relevant claim period e.g. were too ill to make an application within the period or experienced delays and/or difficulties in confirming test and protect status. Where there is evidence of exceptional circumstances, the applicant must meet all the eligibility criteria as described in 11.21. If an application is awarded using exceptional circumstances beyond the relevant claim period, the financial need must be current.
11.18 This discretion only applies to the timescale for applications and the test and protect status. Where there is evidence of exceptional circumstances the applicant must meet the low income criteria (as described at 11.21) to qualify for the award and face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work while they, their child, or person they are caring for are self-isolating. Awards made to meet a financial need which is no longer current would not fall within the purpose for which the SWF can be used.
11.19 In cases where the applicant faces financial hardship as a result of self-isolation but does not meet the low income criteria (as described at 11.21), the local authority may invite the applicant to apply for a Crisis Grant and will apply the tests and considerations for Crisis Grants set out elsewhere in this guidance.
11.20 In a case where the applicant faces financial hardship as a result of self-isolation pending a coronavirus test result, the local authority may invite the applicant to apply for a Crisis Grant and will apply the tests and considerations for Crisis Grants set out elsewhere in this guidance.
11.21 Eligibility for a SISG is restricted to people who:
- Have received a public health request by the Test and Protect Service (or equivalent service across the UK) to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19, either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive;
- have been notified by the Protect Scotland app (or equivalent app) to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19 because they have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and this requirement can be individually verified;
- are the identified appropriate parent or primary carer of a child under 16 who has been required by the Test and Protect Service (or equivalent service across the UK), local public health director or a local Incident Management Team notification to self-isolate;
- are the identified appropriate carer of a person over 16 who has been required by the Test and Protect Service (or equivalent service across the UK), local public health director or a local Incident Management Team notification to self-isolate.
In addition, prior to the self-isolation period, they must meet the following criteria:
- are employed or self-employed; and
- are unable to work from home and will experience reduced earnings as a result; and
- are assessed as having a low income, either:
- i. their household is currently receiving, or has been awarded but not yet received a payment of the following benefits, or whose income is such that they would ordinarily be entitled to Universal Credit should an application have been made prior to their isolation:
- Universal Credit;
- Working Tax Credit;
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance;
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance;
- Income Support;
- Housing Benefit;
- Pension Credit; and/or
- Means-tested Council Tax Reduction; or
- ii. are an individual who earns less than the Real Living Wage threshold as detailed in the Ready Reckoner table provided by the Scottish Government for this purpose; or
- iii. their household income is such that it falls within the agreed definition of 'low income' for this purpose for their household type in their local authority area, being 25% above the UC level, as detailed in the Ready Reckoner table provided by Scottish Government for this purpose.
11.22 Individuals can claim more than once, if they meet the eligibility criteria for each individual claim, including being told to self-isolate multiple times. They are not allowed to claim more than once for the same period if periods of self-isolation overlap, e.g. if someone is required to self-isolate for a period lasting from 1 October to 14 October and is then required again to self-isolate for a second period beginning on 10 October, they would not be awarded a grant for the second period. Any additional period would need to begin after the first period had ended on 14 October. Local authorities may wish to consider keeping a record of individuals who make multiple claims to guard against potential fraud.
11.23 In cases where a child or an adult requiring support from a carer is required to isolate, only one payment can be made for that period. Where a claim is made by more than one individual in relation to the child or cared for person who is required to isolate, local authorities should consider which is the most appropriate person to make a claim. Where the applicant is also making a claim to support their own self-isolation period, an additional grant for caring for an adult or looking after a child cannot be awarded.
Evidence in support of application
11.24 Decision makers will be able to verify that eligible applicants satisfy the criteria by using a range of tools and records that are available to them. This is not an exhaustive list and the applicant themselves may be able to provide information:
- have been asked to self-isolate by checking the data provided daily to each local authority by Test and Protect (or equivalent service across the UK) or Protect Scotland app certification; or
- are the appropriate person to make a claim where a person over 16 requires personal care support to self-isolate by checking the details on the data provided daily to each local authority by Test and Protect (or equivalent service across the UK); the local authority's own records; or assessing the information provided in support of the application; or
- are applying on behalf of a relevant child by checking the child's details on the data provided daily to each local authority by Test and Protect (or equivalent service across the UK); receiving confirmation by way of letter from the local Incident Management Team (or equivalent service); or the local authority's own records for school based notifications of isolation; and
- are the appropriate person to make a claim where a child under 16 has been asked to isolate by checking the data held on the local authority's own education records; and
- have a low income as defined at 11.21 by either checking that the data on the DWP/HMRC benefits system or the local authority's own records to confirm that they are in receipt of a qualifying benefit or by assessing their earnings against SISG eligibility.
11.25 To apply, applicants will need to provide:
- a bank statement (as a basic up-front fraud check and to check there is current need where a person is applying outwith the 28 day claim period);
- proof of low income if they are not in receipt of a benefit listed at 11.21
- proof of employment or, if they are self-employed, evidence of self-assessment returns, trading income and proof that their business delivers services which cannot be undertaken without social contact or cannot be undertaken because of childcare or caring responsibilities; and
- a declaration, separately or as part of the application form, that they will experience reduced earnings during their period of self-isolation.
- where it is a carer of an adult who is required to isolate, the applicant should confirm via a declaration, separately or as part of the application, that they are the primary carer, they meet all the qualifying criteria and they will experience a loss in earnings as a result of not being able to work to care for the adult.
- where it is a child who is required to isolate, the applicant should confirm via a declaration, separately or as part of the application that they are the parent or primary carer, they meet all the qualifying criteria and they will experience a loss in earnings as a result of staying home to care for the child.
11.26 A decision maker may contact the applicant for more information, check with third parties (subject to the applicant's agreement) such as employers or a person being cared for. When this type of contact takes place, it should be recorded.
11.27 Applicants who meet the eligibility criteria will receive an award of £500. Local authorities retain discretion in determining how awards are fulfilled but decision makers should bear in mind that recipients will be self-isolating for the appropriate period and should not, therefore, go out to public areas during this time. This includes going out to buy food. Payments to bank accounts may, therefore, be preferable. Payments should be made within three working days of an eligible application being verified.
Notifying the decision
11.28 All applicants should receive an official decision which should be in writing, unless the applicant requests otherwise.
11.29 Local authorities are required to record the total number of SISG applications and awards and the total expenditure on such awards on a monthly basis.
11.30 Local authorities are required to record the total number of Public Health fund and Crisis Grants applications and awards made (under 11.19 and 11.20) and the total expenditure on such awards on a monthly basis.
11.31 An additional spreadsheet for this purpose will be provided by Scottish Government to local authorities. The recording of application reference numbers of all applications will allow the statistics for these types of applications to be separated from the main quarterly SWF statistics in the official Scottish Government statistics publication. The additional spreadsheet should be completed and submitted at the same time as the SWF Management return. SISG should not be included as part of the statistics for ordinary Crisis Grants.