The Home Office has reversed its block on granting indefinite leave to remain to the families of care workers and NHS support staff who die after contracting coronavirus.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced last night (Wed) that she would extend the offer of indefinite leave to remain, free of charge, to their dependants and families, which would take effect immediately and retrospectively.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The bereavement scheme was initially launched in April for health workers in the NHS and independent health and care sector.
However, it emerged on Tuesday in an email to the GMB union that the scheme only applied to certain professions including nurses, radiographers and biochemists but excluded care workers, hospital cleaners and porters – a situation the GMB described as “heartless.”
The Government has also been criticised for failing to exempt foreign health workers from the NHS surcharge, requiring people from outside the European Economic Area to pay a fee to access the health service.
The NHS surcharge costs £300 a year for student visas and £400 for all other visa and immigration applications.
The Royal College of Nursing has written to Priti Patel, the home secretary, urging her to waive the charge for health workers “as a matter of urgency”.
“We are urging the home secretary to reconsider and waive this charge for healthcare staff from overseas as a matter of urgency,” Dame Donna Kinnair, the college chief executive, said.