People told to isolate by the contact-tracing app are not able to claim government financial support, Sky News has learned, raising fears that low-paid workers will be forced to choose between health and hardship.
A leading poverty charity said the situation was “ridiculous” and Labour accused the government of putting families at risk of destitution.
Workers with low incomes on benefits are entitled to receive £500 if they cannot work from home while they self-isolate.
But a hidden flaw in the process for claiming the payment means they can only claim the support if they are given a code by a human contact tracer.
Someone who tests positive for coronavirus and receives their result through the app can get the payment because they will be referred to NHS Test and Trace for manual contact tracing by telephone call.Advertisement
But anyone who is told to isolate by the app for people in England and Wales because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 cannot claim the payment, even if they are entitled to it because the app’s privacy-protecting design means their identity remains secret.
The news comes despite claims by the health secretary the “button is there on the app” to let people claim the payment.
Sky News has confirmed that no such button exists, leaving low-paid workers at risk of missing out on crucial financial support.
Test and Trace sources say that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) developed a plan for such a system at least two weeks ago.
But the feature, which would have allowed users to exit the app to make a claim, was not added, even though the app was rapidly gaining users. It has now been downloaded more than 18 million times, according to DHSC.