Millions of pounds of compensation promised by ministers to relatives of frontline health and social care workers who died during the pandemic may still remain unclaimed, says UNISON today (Friday).
Fewer than 800 families across England have received a £60,000 pay out each from the government’s life assurance scheme*.
Official figures show more than 2,000 deaths involving Covid occurred among health and care staff, including porters, nurses and care home employees**. Although the payments are available solely for people whose deaths were “wholly or mainly” caused by Covid, UNISON says there could still be many who fit the criteria, but whose families have yet to apply.
The 31 March deadline for applications to the scheme is just a week away and the union says grieving next of kin could be left without the money to which they are entitled, unless they apply right away.
The fund was set up in April 2020 by then health secretary Matt Hancock for relatives of workers who became infected in the line of duty, either within the NHS or in social care. The death must have occurred before March 2022 to be eligible for compensation.
Figures from the NHS Business Services Authority show that 827 claims have been made up to this month. Of these, 512 were submitted by the families of NHS staff and 294 by relatives of care workers.
Just 760 have been accepted, with 732 already receiving payment. However, 54 cases did not meet the eligibility criteria and 13 are still under consideration.
Employers including NHS trusts and social care providers were asked by the government to contact next of kin when a death occurred. The government also advised them to explain the scheme to relatives and oversee the completion of claims.
UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards said: “Health and social care workers paid the heaviest price for simply doing their jobs during the pandemic.
“Their families deserve the financial help available, but it may be that many are still to apply. It’s vital they come forward to claim the compensation to which they’re entitled.
“Ministers could have done much more to alert families to the existence of the fund and invite them to apply.
“Some households may be facing financial hardship because death has meant a drop in income on top of the loss of a loved one. No one should miss out, particularly when so many people are struggling to make ends meet.”
Note to editors:
–*Figures are correct as of 8 March. They are from the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Schemes covering England. For a claim that is accepted, the schemes make a payment of £60,000 to the estate of eligible individuals who have died from Covid contracted during their frontline essential work.
–**Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 2,009 deaths involving Covid were registered in England between 9 March 2020 and 28 February 2022. These relate to people aged 20 to 64 years.
– Anyone who thinks they might be eligible to make a claim to the NHS Coronavirus Life Assurance (England) Scheme should visit Coronavirus Life Assurance 2020 | NHSBSA.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.