SDLP Social Justice spokesperson Mark H Durkan has written to Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey urging her to reinstate an improved version of the Self Isolation Grant as concerns grow over a potential third wave of COVID-19 following soaring infection rates across the UK.
Mr Durkan, who has been a fervent proponent of a fit for purpose self-isolation scheme from the outset of the pandemic, has reiterated his calls following an announcement from the Welsh Government this week to extend their £500 Self-Isolation Grant until March 2022.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“Minister Hargey to date has displayed a half-hearted approach towards introducing an adequate self-isolation grant for people forced to isolate from their place of work as a result of COVID and subsequently risk losing income, to protect the health of others.
“The Discretionary Support styled self-isolation grant was plagued with delays and the Minister failed time and time again to tackle the many flaws inherent within the scheme. This inadequacy of the process was evidenced in the return of £2million of unspent funds earlier in the year.
“In April, replying to my Assembly question on the matter, Minister Hargey assured me that her officials would be engaging with other departments in the coming weeks. Yet three months down the line it would seem those discussions if they have indeed gone ahead, have not borne fruit.
“As we prepare for the reopening of businesses and society here, it is inevitable that there will be a need for many workers to self-isolate. We’ve already witnessed a spike in infection rates at home and across the water in England where over a half a million people in just last week were notified via the NHS COVID-19 app to self-isolate.
“It’s clear we are at a critical juncture in the pandemic. It is vital that a fit for purpose self-isolation scheme is put in place now to provide a lifeline for struggling individuals and their families, in preparation for the inevitable rise in infection rates.
“Protecting one’s health should not be to the detriment of their finances- people should be permitted to self-isolate without worrying about the impact on their income.
“It is preposterous that this Minister, who was content to sign off on hundreds of thousands of pounds, to cover rich golf clubs’ lost profits does not see merit in supporting ordinary, struggling families through self-isolation.
“The funds were ready and available during the latest set of restrictions, yet individuals were made to jump through hoops and were subjected to intrusive interrogations in order to receive support to which they were entitled. It is imperative that this time around that a more streamlined, accessible process for self-isolation support is established. Minister Hargey needs to act now.”