PEOPLE on low incomes who are told to self-isolate are being left “high and dry” with no financial support because a flaw in the contact-tracing app, according to a York MP.

Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, said she had been contacted by several residents who have been instructed to self-isolate and are entitled to receive a Government £500 payment if they cannot work from home. 

Currently, someone who tests positive for coronavirus and receives their result through the app can get paid because their identity and details are known to NHS Track and Trace – who subsequently provide the individual with a code to claim the money.

But Ms Maskell said anyone who has had contact with a positive case and is told to self-isolate by the app – which uses Bluetooth to identify and notify individuals - cannot claim the payment because the app’s privacy-protection policy means their identity remains secret, and so they cannot be contacted by NHS Track and Trace.

A spokesman for The Department of Health said the scheme was currently unavailable to some users of the app but said it was “actively exploring ways to expand the payment scheme to include this group of users.”

Ms Maskell told The Press that the public health team in York have been inundated with claims and that the situation is creating chaos for local councils. 

She added: “I highlighted this issue in the House of Commons earlier this week and will be doing so again next week to ensure this issue is solved. 

“People on low-incomes are being left high and dry and locked out of the vital help they need. How can they afford to self-isolate if they don’t have access to this funding to help pay their rent and other bills? 

“We need this to work so people can actively follow Track and Trace guidance.” 

A DHSC spokesperson said: “If you are on a low income and you are asked by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, either due to a positive test or as a close contact of a case, you may be entitled to a payment of £500 from your local authority – regardless of whether you booked your test through the app.

“The NHS Covid-19 app is voluntary with users of it remaining anonymous, which means that currently, people are not eligible for the support payment if they are advised by the app to self-isolate because they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive, but we are actively exploring ways to expand the payment scheme to include this group of users.”

The Press has contacted York council for a comment.  

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