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Test and Trace Discretionary Payment Scheme

From 28 September 2020 it was made illegal for any UK resident to leave their home if:

  • They had tested positive for COVID-19; or
  • They had been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace Service and told to self-isolate

For some people this may mean they are unable to go to work and will lose pay.  For people who find themselves in this situation, the Government has introduced a support payment scheme to help out whilst self-isolating.

The Test and Trace Self-Isolation Support Payment scheme is intended to help those on a low income, who are employed or self-employed, would lose income whilst self-isolating and in receipt of certain benefits. 

However, the Government recognises that not all individuals who lose income as a result of being told to self-isolate will be in receipt of benefits.  As such, a Discretionary Scheme is also available. 

Please note, the criteria of the discretionary scheme may change at any time, without prior notice.  

Criteria for the Discretionary Scheme

Applicants for the Discretionary Scheme must meet all of the normal scheme criteria with the exception of being in receipt of benefits.  

Instead, applicants must meet the following additional criteria:

  • Not be a full time student who is entitled to a grant, loan or bursary and are excluded from housing benefit;
  • Not have capital (such as savings or shares) of £6000 or more; and
  • Have a personal gross income of less than £20,000.

An exception to the limit on personal income may be made for individuals who were experiencing financial difficulties prior to September 28th and:

  • Had sought help from a Debt Counselling Service (such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Step Change or National Debt line); and
  • Were part of a recognised debt relief scheme (such as an Individual Voluntary Agreement, Debt Relief Order or Debt Management Plan).

Discretionary payments under these circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis.

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How do I make a claim?

Guidance about how to make a claim is available on the main scheme page, which also details the supporting information you will require.

Test and Trace Self-Isolation Support Payments - Make a Claim

Please note, if you are making an application and have an income above the threshold, but are working with a debt solutions provider, you will also need to provide evidence of this such as:

  • Details of your solution provider
  • Your client reference number
  • Details of your solution (i.e. a recent statement showing your name, reference, solution provider, etc.)
  • Your most recent budget plan

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Why are students excluded?

The income students receive from the Student Loan Company and other sources to cover accommodation and tuition costs are not affected by the COVID crisis.  

The exclusion of students is no different in essence to individuals who are currently furloughed and as such, students will not be considered as part of the discretionary payment scheme.

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Why is capital being considered?

The Council’s existing Council Tax Support scheme sets a limit of £6,000 on capital holdings, such as savings or investments.  

As such, this scheme is consistent with the existing Council Tax Support scheme.  

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Why is there a £20,000 limit on personal income?

The Government’s intention for the Test and Trace Isolation Payment scheme was to help people on low incomes get through a period of isolation.

The Department for Work and Pensions identifies persistent low income as anyone who is earning less than 60% of the UK median income.  For 2020, the Office for National Statistics estimate this to be £30,800.  60% of this is £18,480.

The UK Real Living Wage (as defined by the Living Wage Foundation) is currently £9.30 per hour and an average 37.5 hour week works out at an annual salary of £18,135.

In addition, the Joseph Roundtree Foundation publishes an annual report on the minimum income required for a good standard of living.  For 2020, it was identified that a single adult needs to earn £19,200, decreasing to £18,700 (each) for couples.

These three measures of “low income” each identify an individual income level of less than £20,000.

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Is the £20,000 limit considered on an individual basis?


The main scheme is considered on an individual basis and as such, the discretionary scheme is also considered based on the gross income of the applying individual on their own.

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Are people dealing with debt being automatically excluded from the income limit?

People who are already working with an established financial counselling provider to deal with debt are not automatically being excluded from the £20,000 income limit, but will be considered on a case by case basis.

This is to take account of those individuals who are already under considerable financial strain but are actively seeking professional advice to improve their situation and are subject to an agreement with their debtors.

Such individuals will already have a financial plan in place that takes account of their individual income and uses any disposable resources to repay their debts.  Considering them within the scheme will greatly assist in maintaining their budgets if they find themselves with no income temporarily, through no fault of their own.  

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