Justin Madders calls on Matt Hancock to improve the uptake of the NHS & Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme
Justin Madders has today urged Matt Hancock to write directly to the families of deceased NHS and social care workers to make them aware of the scheme and to encourage and support them in their application.
The latest figures regarding uptake of the scheme show that less than 4 in 10 eligible families are due to benefit from the scheme. The number of NHS and social care staff estimated to have died as a result of coronavirus is now 620, yet the Department for Health and Social Care has confirmed that as of 4th November just 236 claims had been received in England, and of those, only 205 claims had been accepted for payment, with the remainder still being processed.
In a letter to the Secretary of State, Justin Madders urges the Government to take a more proactive approach to removing any barriers that are contributing to the low uptake of the scheme and says it is vital that the Government raise awareness of the scheme, encourage applications, and make process as easy as possible for the bereaved families.
Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said:
“To have lost the lives of so many when they were just doing their jobs is an absolute tragedy and the decision to open up the death in service benefit to everyone working in the health and social care sector in response to this was the right one.”
“However, to see such a low number of applications being made so long after the scheme was started should be prompting Matt Hancock to take action. He must personally ensure that no bereaved family misses out even though the payment cannot take away the pain of that loss.”
Full text of letter:
NHS & Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme
I am writing to urge the Government to take a more proactive approach to ensure that bereaved families who are entitled receive support through the NHS & Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme.
As you will know, the first reported death of a health and social care worker due to coronavirus was on 11th March.
When I wrote to you in April to urge the Government to immediately extend death in service benefits to all NHS staff just 19 deaths of frontline staff had been confirmed. Sadly, the figure for NHS and social care staff who have died as a result of coronavirus is now at least 618, according to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics.
The introduction of the NHS & Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme at the end of April was welcome but more than six months on it is concerning that Government figures demonstrate that the number of applicants does not match the number of health and social care worker deaths.
Last week, the Health Service Journal reported that the families of fewer than half of the NHS and social care staff who have died from Covid-19 are on course to benefit from the government’s £60,000 compensation package, with just 189 claims having been accepted by the end of October. This has barely increased from the figures obtained by my own Freedom of Information request which found that as of 16th September 2020, 167 claims had been received. The Department’s own figures this week confirm that just 205 claims have been accepted for the compensation payment, meaning fewer than 4 in 10 families are due to benefit from the scheme.
I understand that the Department has written to employers who have notified a staff death but for whom a claim has not yet been received, to raise awareness of the scheme and to ask that they contact the family, but with such low take up figures this action has clearly not been effective and further steps must now to be considered. This is particularly important given the time-limited nature of the scheme and the need for people to submit claims without delay.
I am therefore writing to urge the Government to take a more proactive approach to removing any barriers that are contributing to the low uptake of the scheme. It is vital that the Government raise awareness of the scheme, encourage applications, and make process as easy as possible for the bereaved families. I am therefore asking you to take on the responsibility of writing directly to the families of the deceased to make them aware of the scheme and to encourage and support them in their application.
Our frontline NHS and social care staff have given their all throughout this pandemic; some of them have sadly lost their lives doing so. The Government must demonstrate that same level of commitment to ensuring the loved ones of those who have lost their lives in the line of service receive the compensation they deserve.
Furthermore, I urge the Government to extend the scheme to include nursing, midwifery and medical students working in clinical placements as part of their studies. As frontline workers who encounter the same risks as their qualified counterparts they should be entitled to the same protections and support. I also encourage the Government to address the issue of those in receipt of benefit having to choose between accessing the social security they are entitled to or the compensation they receive. The Government should disregard the payments as capital, as is the case for other schemes such as the Windrush Compensation Scheme or those who hold a Victoria or George Cross.
I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.
Justin Madders MP
Shadow Health Minister