The grieving families of NHS cleaners and carers have today been granted indefinite leave to remain after mounting pressure from the public and intense pressure from the GMB union forced the Home Office to change their policy. The final straw came yesterday when a powerful video from NHS cleaner, Hassan Akkad, went viral, in which he expressed his feelings of shock and betrayal at the Prime Minister’s clapping every Thursday but neglecting to protect the families of NHS key workers putting their lives on the line.
Mr Akkad said:
“I have been really enjoying the clapping that you and your fellow ministers in the Government do every week but today however I felt betrayed, stabbed in the back.
“I felt shocked to find out that your Government decided to exclude myself and my colleagues who work as cleaners and porters and social care workers.
“We are all on minimum wage, you have decided to exclude us from the bereavement scheme, so if I die from coronavirus my partner isn’t allowed indefinite leave to remain.”
Patel had originally excluded the families of many frontline key workers – such as cleaners and carers – from the same support scheme as NHS workers such as nurses and radiographers, but appeared to do a U-turn as the Home Office issued a statement today saying:
‘The Home Office is extending the offer of indefinite leave to remain, free of charge, to the families and dependants of NHS support staff and social care workers who die as result of contracting coronavirus. The offer of indefinite leave to remain will be effective immediately and retrospectively.’
The GMB union welcomed the move. Lola McEvoy, GMB Organiser, said in a statement:
“It doesn’t matter where you were born – if you fight on the frontline you deserve the same support.
“It doesn’t bear thinking about what key workers families who’ve lost their loved ones have been going through, but when you add in the extra insecurity of not knowing if you’ll be deported, it’s unacceptable.
“It’s great that GMB pressure has forced the Home Office to back track on this – but as with everything the devil is in the detail and we urge the Home Secretary to mirror the free auto-extension of work visa scheme as well as the free indefinite leave to remain for grieving families to all those staff eligible for Matt Hancock’s Life Assurance payments; that is – all key workers who are in front-line healthcare roles.
“Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also an acceptance that regardless who you work for, where you were born or how much you’re paid – if you have fought front-line during this pandemic – you and your family will be supported and treated the same.”