Bradford Council is calling on the government to increase its support for low-paid people to self-isolate, as funding for its discretionary scheme is about to run out.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of the Council, has written to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking them to extend funding for the discretionary scheme given that Bradford’s initial allocation has proven insufficient to meet the actual level of demand.

There are two schemes to support low-paid individuals who are unable to work from home and have been told to self-isolate: a standard grant for those in work but receiving income-related benefits; and a discretionary grant for others who are on a low income.

Funding for the standard scheme in Bradford has already been used up and the government has therefore agreed to increase the level of funding in order to continue the payments.

However the level of demand for the discretionary support is also higher than the government anticipated – mirroring the standard scheme – but the government has said it will not provide the further funding required to maintain it.

Bradford was awarded funding for 623 standard awards and 369 discretionary awards. By 20 November 2020 the council had already made 675 standard awards and 329 discretionary ones. On current trajectory, the council will have paid out all of the discretionary funding by the end of this week.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe said: “Supporting lower-paid people to self-isolate is the right thing to do morally, nobody should face the awful choice between their health and their income. We have to make it easier for everyone to self-isolate when necessary to tackle the spread of the virus.

“I’ve made repeated requests to government throughout the pandemic to fund support for the low paid. Finally, on 12th October they enabled us to pay the first support payments for the first time but the amount they have set aside for this purpose is too meagre. That’s why I am highlighting this discrepancy to the Health Secretary and Chancellor and I’m asking them to urgently provide the funding that’s clearly needed to continue this important scheme. I have also asked them to review the criteria for the grants because I have concerns that the thresholds to qualify are set too high, which means a number of people who need this support are not currently eligible to receive it.”