The Government has announced that, from 28 September in England, there will be a new legal duty on all those who test positive for COVID-19 or are identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact, requiring them to self-isolate. 

Self-isolation is critical in stopping the spread of coronavirus. It helps to ensure that those infected with the virus, and their close contacts, remain at home and stop virus transmitting to other people. From 28 September, there are new changes to self-isolation being introduced.

What are the changes to self-isolation?

People will be required by law to self-isolate from 28 September. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 – bringing this in line with the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel - but could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the largest breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

For example, this could include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.

A number of steps will be taken to make sure that people are complying with the rules, these include:

  • NHS Test and Trace call handlers making regular contact with people who are self-isolating, with the ability to escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to councils and the police
  • Using police resources to check compliance in the highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence
  • Investigating and prosecuting high-profile cases of non-compliance
  • Acting on instances where people have tested positive, but are not self-isolating

Financial support for those who are self-isolating

Recognising that self-isolation is one of the most powerful tools for controlling the transmission of Covid-19, a new Test and Trace Support payment of £500 will ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate with financial assistance.

Just under 4 million people who are in receipt of benefits in England will be eligible for this payment, which will be available to those who are required to self-isolate from 28 September.

This financial support comes as the government places a legal requirement on people to self-isolate when instructed to by NHS Test and Trace and introduces tougher fines for breaking the rules.

Who is eligible for the Test and Trace support payment?

To be eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment, an individual must:

  • have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because they’ve tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive;
  • be employed or self-employed;
  • be unable to work from home and will lose income as a result; and
  • be currently in receipt of one of the following: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit.

We can't pay applicants who have been told by a friend/ contact that they ought to self-isolate, without that person having formally told NHS Test and Trace who their contacts are (for which they will be under a legal duty not to knowingly provide false information). The legal duty – and the payments – also don't apply to people isolating because they or another member of their household has symptoms. It only applies if you have tested positive for coronavirus or have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate.

This payment also does not cover people who are self-isolating after returning to the UK from abroad, unless they have tested positive for coronavirus via NHS Test and Trace or have been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

How much is the payment?

Individuals who are required to self-isolate and who meet the eligibility criteria will be entitled to £500. This will be payable as a lump sum.

Will these payments be taxed?

These payments will be subject to income tax. They will not be subject to National Insurance contributions. 

How long will this be in place for?

The scheme will run until 31 January 2021. During this time, we will continue to review the efficacy of the scheme, including the impact of COVID-19 incidence levels.

When will this come into force?

These changes will come into effect on 28 September 2020, alongside the legal duty to self-isolate. 

How do I apply?

If you believe you are eligible for this payment, please apply online If you have any questions about the Test and Trace Payment, please email testandtracepayment@warrington.gov.uk

The Test and Trace Support Payment scheme is open for applications.  However, applications cannot begin to be processed until authorisation is given by the Department of Health and Social Care and therefore the processing times outlined will not be met initially.