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All nursing students should be eligible for COVID-19 death in services payments, says Unite

Unite says families of nursing students who die of COVID-19 in service should receive pay out

Unite says families of all nursing students who die of COVID-19 in service should receive pay out

All nursing and healthcare students should be automatically eligible for the 60,000 COVID-19 life assurance scheme if they die of the virus, a union argues.

Schemes loophole only recognises students on paid placements for automatic eligibility

The NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020 , introduced in April 2020, provides a 60,000 payment for the family

Unite says families of all nursing students who die of COVID-19 in service should receive pay out

Illustration of a family being protected by large, paternal hands
The coronavirus life assurance scheme provides a £60,000 payment to families of healthcare workers who die of COVID-19 Picture: iStock

All nursing and healthcare students should be automatically eligible for the £60,000 COVID-19 life assurance scheme if they die of the virus, a union argues.

Scheme’s ‘loophole’ only recognises students on paid placements for automatic eligibility

The NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020, introduced in April 2020, provides a £60,000 payment for the family of a health or social care worker in England who dies after contracting COVID-19 at work. Other parts of the UK have similar provision.

Unite has written to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock asking him to close what the union describes as a loophole where only the families of students on paid placements are automatically eligible for the payment.

Under the present rules, the families of students who die of COVID-19 while on an unpaid placement can only be considered for a pay out from the scheme if approved by Mr Hancock.

Unite argues that this is not good enough and wants Mr Hancock to provide a guarantee that students on unpaid placements would be automatically eligible for the scheme.

Give students and families peace of mind, says Unite

In its letter, the union says the idea of students’ families having to deal with the uncertainty of an application in addition to the loss of a loved one is unacceptable.

‘While we are sure you will agree that we would hope that their families will never need to call upon this provision, it is deeply unfair that they have the added anxiety of this issue on top of the numerous other concerns that they have at this time,’ the union’s letter reads.

‘Students deserve this peace of mind at a time when they are doing so much to support our country through the coronavirus pandemic.’

Commenting on the letter, Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams added: ‘The least that the government can do is to close this loophole so that healthcare students on unpaid placements are covered by the £60,000 life assurance lump sum.’

But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told Nursing Standard that there is no loophole and Mr Hancock has made it clear that any students that die under such circumstances would be given equal treatment.

A spokesperson said: ‘While the NHS and Social Care Life Assurance Scheme is designed to cover employed staff, we are clear students on placement will be treated in the same way as other staff working on the front line.’

Claim figures prompt fears that families are unaware of COVID-19 life assurance scheme

The DHSC added that no claims in the name of a student on placement for the COVID-19 life assurance scheme have yet been made.

Unions recently raised concerns about the COVID-19 life assurance scheme due to a gap between the number of applications to the scheme and the death toll among health and social care workers from the virus.

The scheme recorded 300 applications by the end of 2020 but according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, 883 health and social care workers have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Unison highlighted that this gap may be due to a lack of communication about the scheme and confusion about who was eligible to apply for the £60,000 payment. The RCN added that governments must work with employers so that nursing staff, and their families, know what benefits they are entitled to and how to apply.


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