'Why we are supporting more people on low incomes who are self-isolating'

All non essential shops in Ipswich town centre are closed as Suffolk enters into Tier 4 on Boxing Da

An empty Ipswich town centre during the Covid restrictions - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The latest lockdown will undoubtedly put more people and businesses under further financial stress.

The Government has made grants available which have been a lifeline to many but there is a risk that people who don’t fit into broad national criteria can fall through the cracks.

So, the Government has made an additional fixed amount of funding available to councils to provide extra support tailored to local circumstances. One way we have used this funding is to help people on low incomes who must self-isolate.

It is very important to stop the spread of the virus that people who are told to self-isolate do so immediately, but this can cause extreme financial hardship to those on low incomes who can’t work from home.

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said it was vital the council had a place on the

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere - Credit: Archant

There is a concern that some people are still going to work while infected because they can’t afford not to.

Recognising this, the Government has introduced a scheme to pay £500 to people in these circumstances. However, we were finding that large numbers of people applying for the support payment were being turned down because they didn’t fit the Government’s strict criteria.

The main problem was the insistence that people had to be in receipt of specific benefits.

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Households on low incomes and not claiming benefits were missing out even though in many cases they were worse off than people who were eligible.

We have used our discretionary funding to extend the number of people who are eligible so that working households which fall below a minimum income level can now claim.

We have used the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard which is the level of income needed to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living.

This is a widely recognised standard, updated annually, to take into account current prices and surveys of what members of the public consider a household needs to be part of society.  

Currently this is £19,200 for single people without children or £37,400 for a couple or single parent.

With this change we are confident that many more working people in Ipswich will be able to access the £500 self-isolation payment and help stop the spread of the virus. Details are available on Ipswich Borough Council’s website.