Flaw in contact tracing app stops people claiming government financial support

The function that allows those to claim the support wasn't added to the app.
By Sara Mageit
07:15 am
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COVID-19, contact tracing,

People in England and Wales being told to self-isolate by the NHS contact tracing app have not been able to claim a £500 grant from the government.

A flaw in the process for claiming the financial support means they can only claim the support if they are given a code via the manual contact tracing process.

The app's privacy-protecting design means that anyone who is told to isolate by the app, has their identity remain anonymous and they cannot claim the payment even if they're entitled to it.  

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WHY IT MATTERS

Since February, the amount of people receiving Universal Credit has jumped from 2.9 million to 5.7 million, despite government support.

This impacts just under four million workers in England who are eligible for the payment as people with low incomes are entitled to receive the £500 grant if they cannot work from home while they self-isolate.

Despite claims by health secretary Matt Hancock that there is a button on the app to let people claim the payment, it has been revealed that no such button exists.

Without the financial support, people on low incomes would struggle to self-isolate. Poverty charities have warned that low-paid workers might have to choose between health and financial stability.  

THE LARGER CONTEXT

The contact tracing app for England and Wales has had a turnstile of new bosses, most recently hiring the third in six months - Gaby Appleton, a former director at Elsevier. She will take over from Simon Thompson, the former Apple executive who was appointed to run the programme in June. 

Last month, another glitch was revealed by a user on Twitter, who was unable to log their results. Despite being downloaded six million times on its first day on 24 September, the app was not able to log a third of England's positive tests until 26 September.

ON THE RECORD

Anna Stevenson of national poverty charity Turn2Us said: "We all know that we need people to self-isolate and yet if they are told to self-isolate by a phone line they get support to do it and if they get told to self-isolate by an app, they don't," she said. "It is ridiculous."

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was challenged about the performance of the system at a Downing Street news conference. He said: "I share people's frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.

"We need to make sure that people who do get a positive test self-isolate - that's absolutely crucial if this thing is going to work in the way that it can."

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