News that bereaved families of low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers will be stripped of their benefits if they take the government’s compensation payment has been described as a “new low” by doctors.
Under the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme, the £60,000 lump sum breaches capital limits rules for most benefits, meaning that the recipient would unable to claim universal credit, housing benefit or pension credit.
At least 540 frontline health and social care workers are estimated to have died from coronavirus in England and Wales alone since the beginning of the pandemic, including doctors, nurses, porters, care home workers and paramedics.
Labour has called for families who successfully apply for the payout to be exempted from capital limits rules, in line with other compensation schemes, such as those set up for victims of the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell Tower fire.
Several high-profile health workers have also spoken out.
Rachel Clarke took to Twitter today, calling the news “rotten”.
“Matt Hancock made much of awarding £60k compensation to families of heath & care workers who died from Covid. It turns out low income families awarded the lump sum will therefore be stripped of their benefits.
“Truly a new low”, she said.
Perhaps most sickening of all, compensation schemes *can* be disregarded from benefit calculations – it’s just that the govt has decided not to do this for the NHS Covid bereaved. Disgusting. And I hope MPs force a U-turn @NicolaSturgeon @Keir_Starmer @CarolineLucas @LaylaMoran pic.twitter.com/joBnsSTt58— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) August 25, 2020
Clarke called on the government to make a U-turn on the decision not to disregard the compensation scheme from benefit calculations.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also called for “urgent clarification” saying that the payments “should not impact grieving recipients’ eligibility for welfare and other benefits”.
The RCN said: “The loss of nursing staff due to Covid-19 is tragic. Each one was a huge loss to our profession, to their communities and most of all to their loved ones. The government must address this issue immediately.”
Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “Taking away the income of families in need makes no sense. These payments are meant to provide financial security when it’s needed most, not be an excuse to make savings elsewhere. Ministers must fix this to ensure the loved ones of health and care workers who lost their lives are provided for properly.”