Coronavirus: Benefit claimants who have to self-isolate due to Covid-19 will not be sanctioned
UNIVERSAL credit claimants who have to self-isolate if they contract Covid-19 will not be sanctioned, a work and pensions minister has confirmed.
Will Quince said discretion would be used by Department for Work and Pensions staff in cases where claimants are unable to attend face-to-face meetings at the job centre, which normally could lead to benefits being reduced.
The total number of people testing positive for coronavirus as of 9am on Monday was 319 in the UK, while four people have died.
SNP work and pensions spokesman Neil Gray asked: ‘Could the minister outline in a case where somebody is on universal credit, for instance, has to self-isolate but is having to go through work searches and is unable to attend a job centre - will the minister expect that person to be sanctioned if they can't turn up?’
Responding for the Government, Mr Quince said: ‘Absolutely not, and discretion will of course be used.’
The Government announced last week that statutory sick pay will be paid from the first day workers take off in an attempt to encourage people to stay away from work if they are unwell.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood asked what will happen to workers unable to access sick pay and who instead seek universal credit if they have to self-isolate due to Covid-19.
She said: ‘The Prime Minister said last week that any workers who need to self-isolate because of the coronavirus who are not eligible for statutory sick pay could claim universal credit.
‘But people have to meet a work coach at the start of a claim for universal credit and there's a five-week wait for first payment.
‘Anyone asking for an advance also has to go to a Job Centre to have their identity verified.
‘So how will people who have to self-isolate be able to claim universal credit?’
Mr Quince replied: ‘As the Prime Minister set out last week, we will introduce as part of the Department of Health's emergency bill provisions for statutory sick pay to be made from day one.
‘Employers have been urged to make sure they use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.
‘People not eligible to receive sick pay may be able to claim universal credit and/or contributory ESA (employment support allowance) and staff at our job centres are ready to support people and can rebook any assessment or appointment that's necessary.’