LESS than one third of applications for £500 self-isolation grants have been approved by the Scottish Government – amid a warning vital public health measures could be undermined.

Ministers introduced the grant in October to ensure those on low incomes would not suffer financial hardship if they were required to self-isolate – amid concerns some could not afford to take time off work to do so.

But new figures released by the Scottish Government reveals that only 26.7 per cent of applications during October and November were given the thumbs up.

In October, 3,015 applications were made, with just 696 payments made, costing the scheme £348,000.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Those self-isolating could receive £500

Numbers increased in November, when 1,160 of the 3,938 applications were approved at a cost of £580,000.

Administered by local authorities through the Scottish Welfare Fund, the grants were intended to support those claiming benefits while in work.

Eligibility was widened by the Scottish Government in December, for anyone working who was eligible for Universal Credit, even if they do not claim it, and low-income parents whose children have been asked to self-isolate.

HeraldScotland: First Minister Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said eligibility would need to be further widened to allow more people to gain the support.

She said: “My general hypothesis with that is that it is around eligibility, so there are eligibility criteria for the grant and there will be people who, through no fault of their own, don’t know what they are and think they are eligible when they’re not.

“That still raises the question, is there a group of people therefore, who are not eligible for this grant but who are genuinely finding it financially difficult to self-isolate.”

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Ms Sturgeon added: “That is something that we continue to look at to see if we can extend the eligibility criteria, they were extended on a previous occasion after the grant was introduced and we are actively looking to see if we need to do that again.”

Notes published with the data say a high number of “speculative” applications were expected when it was launched, as well as in the early days of increased eligibility, as well as different approaches being taken by local authorities, who have the ultimate job of approving applications.

The figures, according to those notes, “may include applications that have been received but are still being processed”, although it is not clear how many are still being processed, or if this is indeed the case.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Labour leader Richard LeonardScottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has described the figures as “unacceptable”, calling on the Scottish Government to pay all workers to self-isolate.

He said: “It is essential that all who need to self-isolate are supported to do so: we cannot have public health measures undermined due to people being forced to flout regulations due to lack of support.

“Today I have called on the SNP government to ensure that all workers are paid properly to self-isolate. Failure to do so risks allowing the pandemic to continue unabated and will only increase pressure on the NHS.”