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People who have to self isolate should not lose out financially, says Derry politician

Mark H Durkan wants to see self isolation grant extended to Northern Ireland

A local politician has said that a 'self-isolation grant' should be made available to people in Northern Ireland.

The grant would be available to people who are unable to work because they have been told to self-isolate due to close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan, who is the party's Social Justice spokesperson, said he was disappointed with a response from the Department for Communities to an Assembly question calling for a self-isolation support grant for Northern Ireland, in line with counterparts in the UK.

Mr Durkan said: “We remain the only devolved administration not to offer this crucial grant.

"By making self-isolation financially unviable we run the risk of putting people in the desperate situation of choosing between protecting others from the risk of Covid-19 or providing for themselves and their families."

Mr Durkan said the Department of Communities had responded to his question with a 'vague acknowledgement' that the grant will remain ‘under review’ and signposting instead to the Discretionary Support Grant.

"This non-repayable living expense grant, which I have no doubt has helped many throughout the pandemic, has marked limitations.

"Most notably the eligibility criteria states that a household cannot earn in excess of £20,400, locking many families out of critical financial assistance.

“People cannot afford dither and delay when it comes to self-isolation support, this is something which needs introduced with immediate effect - as has been the case in England, Scotland and Wales. It would now appear the North will lose out on this important scheme.

"The circuit breaker has placed Northern Ireland under some of the most stringent restrictions on these islands.

"People who are doing the right thing by self-isolating to prevent the spread of the virus should not have to do so to the detriment of their finances.” 

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