Fines for breaking self-isolation rules could increase to £5k - but plans for more financial support have been rejected

Friday, 5th February 2021, 10:45 am
Updated Friday, 5th February 2021, 10:45 am
Fines for breaking self-isolation rules could increase to £5k - but plans for more financial support have been rejected (Photo: Shutterstock)

People who break self-isolation rules in England could face bigger fines, under plans being considered by government ministers.

The fine for breaching self-isolation rules could go from £1,000 to £5,000 for the first offence, rising up to as much as £10,000 for repeated offences.

These fines would apply to anyone breaching an order to self-isolate, including people in the UK who have been contacted by the Test and Trace programme, as well as travellers arriving in the UK.

The move is thought to be aimed at increasing compliance, as it emerged that 20,000 of the people who were told to self-isolate this week were still coming into contact with other people.

Why are people not self-isolating?

Speaking to MPs earlier this week, Baroness Harding, head of the Test and Trace programme, said that fewer than 60 per cent of those instructed to self-isolate are complying fully.

She explained that some people have specific reasons as to why they cannot fully self-isolate, such as needing supplies, having care responsibilities or healthcare needs.

However, financial hardship is thought to be the most common reason people give for not being able to fully self-isolate, with many saying they simply cannot afford not to go to work.

What support is available for people self-isolating?

Currently, people on low incomes and who are recipients of certain benefits are eligible for £500 payments if they’re required to self-isolate, while those who don’t qualify can apply for a discretionary grant from councils.

Government figures, including Baroness Harding and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, are thought to have been in favour of increasing the support available to everyone who tests positive, by offering a flat £500 payment.

Baroness Harding said she was concerned about people who get symptoms but fail to get tested because they want to avoid being told to self-isolate. This is, again, thought to be largely driven by concerns over financial hardship, as well as the mental health detriments of self-isolation.

The proposal for an increased support package was rejected by the Treasury.