bereavement scheme

Migrant NHS Family Members Included in Bereavement Scheme

Migrant NHS Family Members Granted Access to COVID-19 Bereavement Scheme

The Home Secretary Priti Patel has finally extended support measures for families of migrant NHS staff including opening up the Bereavement Scheme to cleaners, porters and care workers who die in the COVID-19 crisis.  

NHS England’s Medical Director Stephen Powis paid tribute to staff last week, forcing the Home Office’s hand to rethink their support package to ensure it includes staff regardless of their role.

bereavement scheme opened to NHS staff
The UK Bereavement Scheme for family members who have died due to COVID-19 has finally opened to all healthcare workers, such as NHS cleaners, porters and care workers. [Image: NewStatesman.]

Before the change, only migrant family members of doctors and nurses were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK in the tragic event that their loved one dies during the coronavirus pandemic. 

GMB Union had slammed the exclusion of vital NHS staff who work behind the scenes and who are often the lowest-paid workers on the payroll. GMB Union called it an “outrageous scandal” that some were excluded from the Bereavement Scheme and that it left many workers and their families “out in the cold.” 

GMB Union called it an “outrageous scandal” that some were excluded from the Bereavement Scheme and that it left many workers and their families “out in the cold.” 

Powis pressed that porters and administrators are a vital part of the NHS team as they assist in managing crises like the one the whole world is currently facing. He said: “There are many, many heroes within the NHS, not just doctors and nurses” and referred to the “huge number” of people behind the scenes who do not get praised as often as others. 

The Home Secretary had been under pressure about the exclusion of migrant workers and their families. Commons Home Affairs Committee Chair Yvette Cooper wrote an open letter to Patel, criticising the cruel “unthinkable” possibility of a family of an NHS worker who had died from coronavirus being told to leave the UK. 

Cooper welcomed the inclusion of all healthcare staff in the policy, saying that now all healthcare migrant workers should be able to access free, one-year visa extensions, the same offer given to NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics. 

Cooper asked: “Why should those who care for and transport vulnerable patients and scrub the floors and door handles of COVID-19 wards be excluded from the NHS Visa Extension Scheme?” 

Commons Home Affairs Committee Chair Yvette Cooper wrote an open letter to Patel, criticising the cruel “unthinkable” possibility of a family of an NHS worker who had died from coronavirus being told to leave the UK

GMB Union’s Lola McEvoy called the U-turn “the right thing to do” by ensuring, regardless of job title, that if you work in the NHS or healthcare at this time, you and your family will be supported by the necessary measures. This should apply whether you are a surgeon or a hospital porter. 

Yvette Cooper criticises bereavement scheme
Yvette Cooper criticised the scheme for excluding people based on their nationality. [Image: Labour List.]

Liberal Democrats’ Christine Jardine argued the move does not go far enough and all foreign nationals in NHS and care, and their families, should have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK with zero costs to themselves.  

Patel made the announcement after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed over 300 health and care workers have died with their deaths linked to COVID-19. Patel said, “this is a complex issue that the government has been working hard to address.” 

The initial scheme was launched in April for health workers in the NHS and the independent health and care sector. Thanks to the tireless work and campaigning of equal rights advocates, the workers who Patel often sneers at as “low-skilled” at least have the same support in place as others going forward.  

[Header image: Mike Labrum, Unsplash.]