Covid Tests should be free for Pensioners and those on Universal Credit

Constituents have written in to me asking why those on Universal Credit, and pensioners on Pension Credit Guarantee must pay for Covid tests, whether they are Lateral Flow tests (LFTs) or the more expensive Polymerase Chain Reaction tests (PCRs).

The Government’s cut of £20 per week from Universal Credit (UC) in October 2021 has already been identified by charities to be driving more families into poverty.

Dementia charities such as the Alzheimer Society have already raised concerns that many will be unable to visit vulnerable, often needy family members if they cannot afford the high cost of paying for LFTs for every visit. Regular family contact is vital for so many people.

We have now entered a new era of a brutal cost-of-living crisis, with its attendant inflation, value of wages dropping, food and energy costs skyrocketing. This crisis is only set to get worse, and the situation is getting the publicity it deserves so we are all beginning to prepare ourselves.

And compounding this, we now see new spikes in Covid-19 infections arising worldwide, triggering warnings by the WHO, and new variants continuing to surface.  Australia is dealing with overwhelming surges in infections and Los Angeles has warned that it is considering bringing back a mask mandate for indoor gatherings. These are just two examples. WHO must be given the credit it deserves, and their advice adhered to.

I have previously challenged the Health Minister on the decision to drop universal free testing and one part of the reply by the Department of Health and Social Care stated “Universal free testing for the general public will continue until the end of March (2022), and it is important that we target our testing resources to those who need it most.”

The impact of continuing charges for Covid-19 tests will fall hardest on those on Universal credit, or on pension credit guarantee, or who regularly visit people who are immunocompromised and who wish to keep them safe. Given the cost-of-living crisis and the growing worldwide Covid surges, surely those who can’t afford to pay for these tests, must now be eligible for free testing.

We cannot afford to take any risks regarding a possible return to a resurgence of Covid-19 to pandemic levels, especially when we already know what to do.