Tackling Covid-19: A case for better financial support to self-isolate

Self-isolation remains vital for curbing the transmission of Covid-19, but evidence suggests that rates of compliance are low. A key factor driving low compliance is that many people face financial barriers and lose income for self-isolating. This note, written jointly with researchers from Nuffield Trust, considers how the Government could further expand financial support for self-isolation so as not to risk undermining the vaccine rollout and exit from lockdown.

Although the Government has expanded financial and practical assistance to those isolating, the restrictive eligibility criteria, administrative complexity, and low levels of compensation involved in existing benefits mean that many people still lose earnings for staying home if sick with or exposed to the virus. The £500 Test and Trace Support Payments only cover about 1 in 8 workers, and Statutory Sick Pay only covers a quarter of the average worker’s earnings – and misses out 2 million of the lowest paid workers altogether. This paper therefore sets out a costed proposal for removing these barriers and better replacing incomes for those self-isolating.