Those who test positive for the virus and people they have been in close contact with are legally required to self-isolate at home for 10 days.
It means they are not permitted to go to work, school, public places or shops or use public transport or taxis – and they are allowed no further than their garden for outdoor exercise.
But Staffordshire County Council member Sue Woodward raised concerns at a meeting in February that those who were least able to self-isolate may be deterred from getting themselves tested, for fear of receiving a positive result.
At the latest full council meeting she thanked Councillor Johnny McMahon, cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing and Richard Harling, director of health and care, for looking into the issue of people applying for self-isolation payments being refused.
She said: “It appears that the applicant success rate in Staffordshire reflects the national rate of around 30 per cent nationally, with 70 per cent of applicants therefore being refused. What impact does the cabinet member think this may have had on the willingness of those who are Covid-positive to self-isolate and therefore on the transmission rates in our communities?
“It does seem to me that a 70 per cent failure rate is far too high and seems to indicate that the criteria for applications are perhaps too draconian. If it were capturing the people in need then there shouldn’t be that level of failure rate.
“There has been concern raised that people in low-paid, fragile work have not been able to self-isolate because of the need to put food on the table, pay the rent and the ongoing bills.
“The Local Government Association is pushing for changes to the framework for self-isolation payments. Will Councillor McMahon continue to lobby along the lines of the Local Government Association? The impact of inability to self-isolate just adds to the transmission rate in Staffordshire and across the country.”
Councillor McMahon responded: “I think this a very important question and I thank Councillor Woodward for asking.
“We would ask the secretary of state to investigate the issue so that we can be assured that the low success rates of applicants is not having an impact on testing and compliance. I think the Government need to look into this more closely – and then if needs be change it. That letter has gone off.
“There is no data about whether having a self-isolation payment application declined influences people’s willingness to isolate. The data we do have about isolation demonstrates that compliance with isolation is on the whole good.
“We call confirmed cases and their close contacts to verify isolation and the vast majority of these are isolating in line with legal requirements. A small number of people – around 50 weekly – are referred to the police because there are reasons to doubt that they are isolating.
“The police visit these individuals at home and generally find that they are in fact isolating. A small number of fixed penalty notices have been issued where the legal requirements have been breached.”