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3 March, 2020 Open access

Government says it is ‘absolutely our intention’ that claimants will not face benefit sanctions if choosing to self-isolate because of coronavirus

For those who need to self-isolate for medical reasons to protect others, that counts as being off sick, Health Secretary says in Commons debate on the government's coronavirus action plan

It is 'absolutely our intention' that claimants will not face benefit sanctions if choosing to self-isolate because of coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

In a debate in the Commons this afternoon on the government's coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan, Mr Hancock was asked by former DWP Minister Mark Harper whether frontline DWP staff and systems will accommodate the fact that self-isolation should be treated as an illness and that no inappropriate benefit sanctions will be applied. Mr Hancock said -

'We are absolutely clear that that is the rule, and I frequently talk to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about this matter.'

In addition, asked by Emma Hardy MP to confirm that claimants will not face benefit sanctions if they miss appointments because they are choosing to self-isolate, Mr Hancock said -

'Yes, that is absolutely our intention.'

Asked by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth also about the need for those off work sick to obtain certification from their GP, Mr Hancock said that the government is keeping the rules on SSP 'under review', but that -

'... for those who need to self-isolate for medical reasons to protect others, that counts as being off sick. They do not need to go to a GP, because there is a seven-day allowance for self-declaration ...'

NB - pressed on his reference to seven days when isolation is for 14 days, Mr Hancock said -

'That is indeed the sort of reason why we are holding this area under review and there is work ongoing, including on the points ... raised.'

Mr Hancock also said that the government is 'absolutely willing' to look at the suggestion, put forward by Caroline Nokes MP, of making use 'on the frontline' of the 3,000 trained healthcare professionals currently working on assessments for the DWP.

For more information, see the Commons debate on the government's coronavirus action plan from Hansard.