THOUSANDS of people received financial support to self-isolate while coronavirus rules were in place across the BCP council area, figures show.

From October 2020, people on low incomes could apply for a one-off £500 grant if they were required to self-isolate and could not work from home.

However, the Test and Trace support payment initiative ended on Thursday, February 24, when the legal requirement for people who test positive for Covid to self-isolate was also scrapped.

Read more: Residents face further disruption and still can't return home

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) branded the scheme "hopeless" as it claimed few were aware of its benefits, and added the decision to close it will force workers to take responsibility without adequate sick pay.

In Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, there were 4,810 successful claims for Test and Trace support payments up to February 16, figures from the UK Health Security Agency show.

Of these, 3,041 were handed out through the main government scheme, aimed at those who will lose income as a result of working from home and who are in receipt of certain benefits, including Universal Credit and housing benefit.

A further 1,769 were discretionary payments by the council, given to those on low incomes who did not meet the criteria for the main scheme – a person could also claim the payment more than once if they had to isolate on multiple occasions.

Read more: Questions raised over future of Westover Gardens Art and Makers Market

And a total of £2.4 million was paid to support people self-isolating in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole over a 17-month period.

The decision to scrap the payments and return to pre-Covid sick pay rules – where it is paid from the fourth day of sickness rather than the first – has been criticised by the British Medical Association.

Chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "The removal of self-isolation payments, and then access to statutory sick pay in a months' time, is incredibly concerning, as it will mean people cannot afford to stay at home if they are unwell."

Dr Nagpaul added the 'Living with Covid' plan, unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, will create a "two-tier system" between those who can and cannot afford lateral flow tests from April 1 – threatening to exacerbate health inequalities exposed by the pandemic.

However a Government spokesperson said temporary changes to statutory sick pay, and the Test and Trace support scheme, were to "to help people experiencing financial hardship if they were self-isolating".

"We have worked closely with all 309 local authorities in England to ensure residents have been made aware of the support available to them," they added.