COVID-19 app payment loophole will not be fixed by end of lockdown in England | Scientific and technical news


People who are told to self-isolate by the contact tracing app won’t be able to apply for financial support after the lockdown ends, and may not do so until Christmas, Sky News can reveal.

Low income workers in England are entitled to receive £ 500 if they cannot work from home while they are self-isolating, but they can only claim help if they are given a code by a human contact tracer.

Leaked documents seen by Sky News reveal that a technical fix was drafted and signed off by Treasury and Downing Street.

Yet delays in its implementation mean it will not be in place for the end of England’s lockdown on December 2 and may not arrive for several weeks after that, despite fears. that contacts increase during the holiday period.

Leaked document shows proposed patch plan

Labor called on the government to correct the loophole, which was First revealed by Sky News on October 22, at this point, the Ministry of Health had known about the problem for at least two weeks.

“It is staggering that those using the Covid-19 app still cannot access support to self-isolate – even if they are eligible for payment,” said Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds, at Sky News.

“The Prime Minister must take back control and fix this broken system before Christmas time. ”

A source from Test and Trace said the delay in the implementation came from the developers of the app, who are under pressure to update it to reflect changes in the quarantine policy and make it compatible with new tests. fast.

This follows a long delay as approval for the fix was sought from several government departments, including Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, where officials raised concerns about the fraud before finally passing it on to the Treasury . The plan was finally approved last Thursday during the government’s weekly COVID-19 operations committee.

As the proposed solution got bogged down in Whitehall’s sclerotic approval process, Health Secretary Matt Hancock even claimed there was a “button” on the app to allow people to claim the. payment. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) later claimed he referred to manual contact tracing.

A leaked document titled ‘Solution offered to app users to claim payment for self-isolation support’ shows that app users who wish to claim the £ 500 grant will receive a code by e -mail contact tracing system.

They will then be directed to their local authority’s website, where they can enter their code and bank details, and will undergo a check to indicate whether or not they are receiving benefits.

The architecture of the app, which is built using privacy technology from Google and Apple, means that it is not possible to do this directly in the app, but the document shows that there is a relatively straightforward process for users to let the app claim payment.

Test and Trace does not release details of how many people have been asked to quarantine themselves by the app, but a number of users have said they were denied payment due to the flaw.

“I am self-employed and had to miss jobs that cannot be rescheduled so it cost me no reimbursement option,” an app user who could not claim the grant told Sky News. support.

Dido Harding, responsible for tests and traces, has been self-isolating since last Wednesday after receiving a notification from the application.

According to the Test and Trace source, the payment fix approval process was brought forward after Baroness Harding posted her notification on Twitter, where responses reminded her that poorly paid workers might not be able to claim. the government support grant.

Asked why the introduction of a solution was being delayed, a DHSC spokesperson said: “Self-isolation is vital to stop the spread of the virus. NHS Test and Trace contact tracers will inform those who are eligible of the potential support available, including where they need to go to apply.


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