Bereaved families of frontline health and social care staff in England who lose their lives while fighting the coronavirus will receive a £60,000 death in service lump sum, health secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday evening (27 April).
NHS coronavirus response
The new life assurance scheme will benefit all frontline staff in the NHS and social care who provide hands-on personal care for people who have contracted the coronavirus, including those from overseas.
It will be available to full time, part time and locum NHS and public health workers including GPs, dentists, retired staff who have returned to the health service and second and final year students in paid frontline roles.
In the care sector, it will benefit employees of publicly-funded care homes, home care workers, directly employed carers and frontline child and family social workers.
Porters and cleaners who carry out duties in environments with coronavirus patients will also be entitled to the benefit.
At the time of writing, 82 health workers and 16 social care staff had lost their lives to the coronavirus.
Hancock said: “Nothing can make up for the tragic loss of a loved one during this pandemic. We owe a huge debt to those who die in service to our nation and are doing everything we can to protect them.
“Financial worries should be the last thing on the minds of their families so in recognition of these unprecedented circumstances we are expanding financial protection to NHS and social care workers delivering publicly funded care on the frontline.
“We will continue to strive night and day to provide them with the support and protection they need and deserve to keep them safe as they work tirelessly to save lives.”
The £60,000 lump sum family members will receive is worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for an NHS employee, the government said.
Employers will need to initiate claims on behalf of individuals’ families. Claims will be processed and verified by the NHS Business Services Authority.
The scheme is available to health workers in England, but Westminster will also provide funding for similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
At the government’s daily press conference yesterday, Hancock said the government would also look into whether a similar scheme could be offered to those in other professions working on the frontline during the pandemic.
Dave Prentis, general secretary at union Unison, said: “It’s only right the families of all those who worked for the NHS or in social care, and who’ve sadly lost their lives to the virus, are properly provided for.
“Until now, the relatives of any low-paid health worker who died and had opted out of the NHS pension scheme would’ve received nothing. Nor would the families of care workers on precarious contracts. Thankfully now that wrong has been put right.
“Until their untimely deaths, all were looking after patients, saving lives, caring for the elderly and the vulnerable in our hospitals and care homes. Putting themselves in harm’s way, while most of us were safe at home.
“All the money in the world can’t replace a loved one. Nor can it lessen the deep grief relatives are experiencing. But providing financial security for the families of all those who’ve paid the ultimate price for their professionalism and dedication is the very least we can do.