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09 Aug 2022

Durkan calls for self-isolation grant as Omicron infection rates soar

Mark H Durkan

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan: "People should be permitted to self-isolate without worrying about the impact on their income"

Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan, has written to Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, urging her to establish an improved version of the Self Isolation Grant as concerns grow over the Omicron variant.

Mr Durkan, who has been a fervent proponent of a fit for purpose self-isolation scheme from the outset of the pandemic, said people who are forced to isolate from work as a result of COVID should be supported to do so.

And the SDLP Communities Spokesperson insisted that “people should be permitted to self-isolate without worrying about the impact on their income”.

He said: “The latest scientific data has shown that Omicron is at least three times more transmissible than the Delta variant. Indeed, we are seeing infection rates doubling in less than two days across the United Kingdom.

“This will inevitably lead to an increasing number of people who will be required to self-isolate, potentially taking time off work and subsequently risk losing income.

“It’s clear we are at yet another critical juncture in the fight against COVID and as such a fit for purpose self-isolation scheme is key to provide a lifeline for struggling individuals and their families, in preparation for the rise in infection rates.

“Likewise, the Discretionary Support styled self-isolation grant was plagued with delays and the Minister failed time and time again to tackle the many flaws inherent within the scheme.

“I had consistently lobbied the Minister to establish a robust support mechanism for self-isolation, yet despite ample opportunity no action has been taken to improve the provision.

“Protecting one’s health should not be to the detriment of their finances. People should be permitted to self-isolate without worrying about the impact on their income.

“I appreciate that enhancements have been made to the Statutory Sick Pay however I do not believe this goes far enough.

“It is imperative that a more streamlined, accessible process for self-isolation support is established.

“The winter months and rising cost of living is already posing a significant challenge to low-income households. Minister Hargey needs to act now to support people who need to self-isolate.”

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