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The government has agreed to pay just 21 families the £60,000 lump sum promised to all those who lost a relative on the coronavirus front line, HuffPost UK can reveal.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced the new life assurance scheme in April, pledging that families of NHS and social care workers would be eligible for the cash payout if a loved one died in the course of “essential front line” duties.
But despite more than 300 health and care workers having lost their lives after contracting the virus, just 21 claims have been successful. Payouts have been made in just two cases.
A Freedom of Information investigation by HuffPost UK found the NHS Business Services Authority, which is managing the scheme, had received 58 claims for the cash payout since it was officially opened on May 20.
Of the 40 that have been assessed, 21 have been accepted, while 15 “require further information” from either the NHS or claimant.
Another four are still being looked at by a panel and may be refused and a further 18 claims are still waiting to be assessed.
Claims are also “time-limited”, the Department for Health and Social Care has said, with the length of the policy “under review” and set to stick to a six-month sunset clause.
Unison, the trade union that represents many health workers, said the figures showed “grieving families are missing out on vital support when they need it most”.
Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea added: “The loved ones of health and care staff killed by the virus aren’t coming forward and we need to know why. Employers and the government must pull out all the stops to promote the scheme.
“Help should be provided to guide people through the application process, so it’s not intimidating or difficult. Getting the financial support should be made as easy as possible.”
Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the British Medical Association’s pensions committee, also said government should do more to promote the life assurance scheme.
He said: “Losing loved ones who worked in the health service during Covid-19 is difficult enough. Grieving families and partners should not have to suffer the additional pressures created by the loss of what may be their main source of income as well.
“There should not be any barriers to claiming for people who are eligible and the government should do everything it can to encourage applications and make the process easier.”
A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing added that the scheme should be “easily accessed” and “be paid promptly – no family should face a lengthy or complex process”.
Hancock had said in April at a Covid-19 briefing in Downing Street: “I feel a deep personal sense of duty that we must care for their loved ones.”
He added: “Of course, nothing replaces the loss of a loved one but we want to do everything we can to support families who are dealing with this grief.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The death of any healthcare worker is a tragedy. The government life assurance scheme provides added financial security for the families of frontline NHS and social care workers in England who die in the course of their work because of coronavirus.
“Information on the scheme has been shared with NHS and social care employers who are responsible for informing their employees. If employers become aware of a death where there may be eligibility for a claim, they are asked to contact the next of kin.”