Exclusive: Whitehall turf war is costing bereaved families justice

 

The bereaved families of critical transport workers who have died from COVID-19 are being denied access to the Government's life insurance scheme due to inter-departmental financial bickering.

While families grieve the loss of beloved family members and face up to the financial impact of losing a breadwinner, the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social care are arguing over who should pay for any expansion of the Government's life insurance scheme.

It has been weeks since the health secretary Matt Hancock announced a temporary £60,000 life insurance scheme as a token of respect to health and social care workers who died of COVID-19 while bravely fighting the disease.

He said at the time ministers would consider whether to extend this to other critical workers who were also told by government to maintain operations throughout the crisis. This includes our #HighwaysHeroes and #TransportHeroes.

Sadly, we know scores of transport workers have now died after following government orders and carrying on working on the frontline often without PPE.

Grant Shapps confirmed within the last few days that at least 42 Transport for London workers have died from the disease, while on Network Rail including the train operating companies the latest death toll is 10.

This will include the tragic case of rail worker Belly Mujinga, 47, who died with the coronavirus after apparently being spat at by a passenger in Victoria station in London in March.

Transport and infrastructure workers have some of the highest death tolls proportionally of any profession, with bus and coach drivers suffering 26.4 deaths per 100,000 and construction workers 25.9 deaths per 100,000, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Despite this grim toll, when Transport Network approached DfT for confirmation it would extend the life insurance scheme to transport workers, it referred all enquiries to the Department of Health.

Following a back and forth between the departments, the DfT refused to comment and the DoH would only say that while the Government recognises the important contribution of all key workers in the fight against coronavirus, its scheme is targeted at frontline NHS and care workers only.

Unite national officer for public transport Bobby Morton said: 'A large number of transport workers have died and continue to die during the pandemic.

'It is appalling that these tragedies are being used as a political football between government departments, with the department of health now washing their hands on this matter.

'No amount of compensation will bring a loved one back but as a minimum the government should simply do the right thing and make sure these payments are made. '

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