Towards the end of last month the Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, announced that a death in service payment is to be introduced for social care workers. This announcement follows on from a similar scheme already available to NHS staff and forms part of a wider call to address Scotland’s fair work principles and commissioning contracts, throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is an overdue but welcome announcement. Although Scotland deserves credit for being the first of the four nations to introduce a Covid-19 related death in service payment for NHS staff, that scheme fell short of what was required by failing to including social care workers. Contrast this with England, where their similar scheme immediately acknowledged the importance of a social care worker’s role in society and in the fight against Coronavirus.
Who is eligible for the scheme?
The exact terms and conditions of the proposed scheme are yet to be published. However, it seems likely that the rules will be similar to those governing the NHS Scotland Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020. In other words, your loved one will need to have been working as a social care worker, in an environment where they were directly at risk of contracting Coronavirus whilst carrying out their normal, day to day job requirements. Coronavirus will also need to be listed as a factor on their death certificate or death documents. It is likely to be irrelevant whether or not your loved one was on a permanent or temporary contract.
When will the Scheme start?
Positively, the Scottish Government have said the new scheme is to be retrospective. This means that if your loved one died as a result of the Coronavirus, which they contracted at work prior to the release of this scheme, you could be eligible to make an application for the death in service payment. The NHS scheme is also retrospective and was deemed to have commenced on the 17 March 2020. It is assumed that this date will be the same for the new social care worker’s scheme.
What payments will I be eligible to receive?
The Scottish Government have stated that a named survivor will receive a one off payment of £60,000, although named survivor has not yet been defined. The NHS Scheme uses the term a ‘surviving adult dependent’ which includes spouses, civil partners or a surviving nominated partner. A nominated partner is someone who had been living with the deceased for a period of at least 2 years, was financially interdependent with the deceased and nothing can have been formally preventing you from getting married or having a civil partnership. It is yet to be clarified whether the new scheme will define the term ‘named survivor’ similarly.
Does accepting a payment under the scheme mean I can make no further claim for the loss of a loved one?
Whilst details of the scheme for social care workers is still to be announced, it seems unlikely that an application for a death in service payment will remove your eligibility to make a wrongful death claim. The NHS scheme is designed to extend protection to NHS workers who fall outside those already covered by death in service benefits schemes and it is likely that the scheme for social care workers will operate in a similar way.
On that basis, a wrongful death claim could still be available to you if your loved one died after contracting the virus as a result of negligent actions. These types of cases depend on being able to prove negligence and that the negligence caused the death of your loved one. Each case will therefore turn on its individual facts.
Caroline Kelly is a Partner and Solicitor Advocate in our Specialist Personal Injury team. For further information, please contact Caroline on 01382 346282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, you can contact any member of the Personal Injury team on 0800 731 8434.