Sky News has learned that people who have been asked to be fired through the contact tracing app are unable to claim government financial support, raising concerns that low-wage workers will have to choose between health and hardship.
A leading anti-poverty charity said the situation was “ludicrous” and the Labor Party accused the government of putting families at risk of poverty.
Low-income and benefit workers are entitled to £ 500 if they cannot work from home while in isolation on their own.
But there is an hidden flaw in the claim-to-pay process that means they can only claim support if they are code-tipped by the human contact tracker.
A person for whom test results have tested positive Corona Virus And receiving their results through the app, payment can be obtained because they will be referred to NHS Test and Trace to manually track the contact by phone call.
But anyone is required to be isolated via the app because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive Covid-19 They cannot claim payment, even if they qualify for it because the app’s privacy protection design means that their identity remains confidential.
This news comes despite claims by the health minister that “the button is in the app” to allow people to claim payment.
Sky News confirmed the absence of such a button, which leaves low-wage workers at risk of losing critical financial support.
Test and trace sources say the Department of Health and Welfare (DHSC) put in place a plan for such a system at least two weeks in advance.
But the feature wasn’t added, which would have allowed users to exit the app to file a claim, even though the app was quickly acquiring users. It has now been downloaded more than 18 million times, according to DHSC.
Asked why Mr. Hancock claimed the button was present when it was not, a DHSC spokesperson said it was referring to manual contact tracing.
It is not known how many people have been affected by the case, but Labor MP Rachel Meskel said the public health team in her York district was “overwhelmed” with allegations, and that the situation was “creating chaos” for local councils.
Jonathan Reynolds, a member of parliament, shadow minister for work and pensions, told Sky News: “Adhering to the instructions for self-isolation should not push people and their families into suffering.
“Everyone wants to do the right thing and they must be enabled to isolate themselves when needed with financial support when needed.”
Anna Stephenson of Turn2Us, the national anti-poverty charity, has warned that without financial support, people with low incomes will struggle to isolate themselves.
“We all know we need to self-isolate people, however, if they are asked to self-isolate via a phone line, they will have support to do so, and if they are asked to self-isolate by an app, they won’t do that,” she said. “
Paying £ 500 to low-wage workers who were required to take time off work was a key part of the government’s plan to encourage self-isolation, which was introduced after studies indicated that less than 20% of people in England are isolated when asked to do so by Contact trackers mainly for financial reasons.
However, despite the launch of the contact tracing app on September 26, two days before the new law on self-isolation went into effect, sources working on the app say the two systems have never been connected.
A solution was developed by the application team and approved by NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England (PHE) at least two weeks ago, the source said, but work on the plan was put on hold because Cabinet Office and Downing Street were concerned about the risk of fraud.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told Sky News: “The NHS Covid-19 app is voluntary with users remaining anonymous, which means that at present, people are ineligible for a support payment if the app advises them to self-isolate because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.” .
“We are actively exploring ways to expand the payment scheme to include this group of users,” the spokesperson added.
“I was not aware of this particular case,” said Steve Barclay, chief treasurer of Sky News, but he reiterated support for those who are being asked to self-isolate.
He added that the app was “easy to use” and claimed that it was “extremely effective”.
After changing the law in England, it is now illegal for anyone who is required to self-isolate by Test and Trace to fail to do so. This does not apply to instructions from the app, which are advisory and not legally enforceable.
To be eligible for self-isolation payments, workers must be self-employed or self-employed, unable to work from home, and able to demonstrate that they will lose income as a result of being forced out of work.
They also need to receive one of a number of benefits, including universal credit and an income-based job seekers’ allowance.
According to official statistics, fewer than four million workers in England were eligible for these wages, although this number could rise as more people struggle to find work.
The number of people receiving universal credit has nearly doubled since February, jumping from 2.9 million to 5.7 million, despite heavy government support.
The test and tracking numbers released on Thursday show that less than 60% close contacts Of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in England were reached – the lowest weekly rate since the service began.
And only 15% of people who get tested for COVID-19 in England on a personal website receive their results within 24 hours.
At a Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson admitted “Frustrations” with the system He recognized that there was a need for “improvement”.