Councils make it easier to get financial support to self-isolate

Councils across Essex have worked together to make it easier for people who have to self-isolate to get a £500 support payment if they need it.

People must, by law, self-isolate if they are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace or Essex and Southend contact tracing. Essex County Council and the 12 borough, city and district councils in Essex have made it easier for people on low incomes to apply for a discretionary £500 payment if they’re unable to work from home while self-isolating.

This includes those who are told to self-isolate because they:

  • test positive for Covid-19
  • are a parent/guardian with a self-isolating child
  • live with someone else who tests positive
  • have contact with someone in their childcare or support bubble who tests positive.

Previously each local council set its own criteria and take-up was inconsistent. Now they have agreed common criteria and simplified the process. The new scheme comes into effect tomorrow, Thursday 15 April.

Employed people who earn less than £500 per week (net), have household savings below £16,000, are not on benefits and meet other existing criteria are now eligible. This includes self-employed and zero-hours contract workers.

Employees who are in receipt of benefits may be eligible for the national scheme.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health for Essex said “Thanks to everything the people of Essex have done Covid-19 case rates have gone from among the highest in England to about a third of the national average. But we can’t let down our guard. I urge people to get tested regularly, whether they have symptoms or not, and to self-isolate if they or someone they’re in contact with tests positive.

“If you carry on going out to work because you’re worried about losing money, you could be spreading the virus. These changes to the discretionary test and trace support scheme will help more people to self-isolate.”

For more information about support while you are self-isolating and to apply for payments from your local council see


  1. Essex County Council distributed £3 million of Government Covid-19 support funding to the 12 local councils in January 2021 to fund the discretionary Test and Trace support payments scheme.

  2. Under the revised scheme, people may be eligible for a discretionary payment of £500 if they:

  • Live in the local council area
  • have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because
  • they've tested positive for coronavirus or
  • they’ve recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. This includes people in their support or childcare bubble
  • are on a low income, earning less than £500 per week net
  • have household savings of less than £16,000
  • are employed or self-employed, including those on zero hours contracts and self-employed who have been trading for less than a year
  • are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result and are able to demonstrate that they will lose income
  • are NOT currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.
  • Have an 8-digit reference number from NHS Test and Trace.
  1. To stop the spread of Covid-19 as we emerge from lockdown, everybody in Essex is urged to:
  • Make regular self-testing a habit
  • Apply for financial support if they must self-isolate
  • Get vaccinated if they are invited.

See for information about picking up self-testing kits from libraries or other participating outlets, or booking a PCR test.

Last updated 14 April 2021