Bereavement scheme extended to migrant NHS support workers government in U-turn

20 May 2020, 18:42

By Kate Buck

The families of migrant NHS support staff who die fighting coronavirus will now be granted indefinite leave to remain, marking a u-turn in policy from the government.

The government came under fire last night after saying only the families of migrant NHS doctors and nurses who died from Covid-19 would be granted leave to remain, while the families of cleaners and porters would not.

The extension of the scheme - which was originally announced last month - to include cleaners, porters, social care staff and care home workers will be effective immediately and retrospectively, the Home Office confirmed.

Earlier today Prime Minister Boris Johnson 181 NHS staff and 131 social care workers have died from Covid-19.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Every death in this crisis is a tragedy, and sadly some NHS support staff and social care workers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of saving the lives of others.

"When I announced the introduction of the bereavement scheme in April, I said we would continue to work across Government to look at ways to offer further support. Today we are extending the scheme to NHS support staff and social care workers.

Families NHS support staff who die fighting Covid-19 will now be granted indefinite leave to remain
Families NHS support staff who die fighting Covid-19 will now be granted indefinite leave to remain. Picture: PA

"We want to ensure families have the support they need and so this will be effective immediately and retrospectively."

Just moments before the announcement, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden had said the policy was "under review" when pressed on the matter by LBC's Ben Kentish.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, Mr Dowden said: "We all of us, owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone working in the NHS, we all go out and clap on Thursday evenings to show that appreciation.

"One of the measures that we've taken to show that support is the bereavement support which is available to everyone, including porters and others who make such a huge contribution.

"In respect of your point about the indefinite leave to remain, we do keep that policy under review and we will look further into that case."

NHS chief Stephen Powis said the policy was a "matter for government".

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

He added: "As a doctor who worked on the frontline for many years, how much I value the entire multi-disciplinary team from porter, to manager, to administrator to nurse who absolutely work together as a team.

"Not only in this case of crisis but also in the day-to-day care that the NHS provides.

"It's often the doctors and the nurses who are at the front and get the praise but believe me there are a huge number of people working behind the scenes.

"There are many, many heroes in the NHS, not just doctors and nurses."