It is an insult for the government to claim that a life assurance pay out of £60,000 to the families of a health or social care worker who dies of COVID-19 in any way compensates for the loss of life.
Despite their protestations that they “will do whatever it takes”, this again shows the scant regard the government has for frontline workers.
It follows the abject failure to ensure that staff are properly protected at work, and a testing and contract tracing regimen that is too little, too late. The government has now neglected to correct historic inequalities in the provision of death in service benefits.
On April 27th Matt Hancock announced the £60,000 payout. But the conditions that go with it are an insult to those who are lost and those left behind.
One of the criteria is that the deceased must have been in work within two weeks of developing symptoms.
We do not yet know enough about COVID-19 to be able to confidently state that the longest period from exposure to symptoms is fourteen days.
Many health and social care workers do not qualify for full death in service benefits. These include people who have opted out of the NHS pension scheme due to an inability to afford contributions, or because their jobs have been outsourced to the private sector.
GP locums who die on a day they are not in work, and retired health and social care workers who have generously returned to work during the pandemic are also not eligible for the full amount.
Widowers will also only receive a pension based on their spouses membership of the pension scheme after 6th April 1988.
Families of those with less than two years membership of the pension scheme will receive no short term pension or long term adult dependants/child’s pension.
Full death in service benefits should extend to all health and social care workers regardless of bureaucratic caveats. The criteria that the deceased must have been in work two weeks before developing symptoms should be dropped.