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Grieving Families Say No.10's Decision To Block Covid Bereavement Bubbles Was "Offensive"

3 min read

A leading campaign group representing more than 6,000 people who have lost family members to Covid-19 has described the government’s decision not to allow bereavement support bubbles during lockdown as “offensive to the majority of the British public”.

In a scathing op-ed published in The Times this morning, Nikki da Costa, a former director of legislative affairs in Number 10, said the option of introducing bubbles for grieving families was discussed as a possibility for stage two of the 2021 roadmap out of lockdown.

The policy was put to the Prime Minister in a written submission last year and would have enabled individuals who lost close family, suffered miscarriage, the stillbirth of a child or neonatal death to visit close contacts for support.

However, despite being “pushed” and “worked up as an option”, three days after the policy was floated it “was unpicked” by Number 10.

According to da Costa, who worked under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson, there were concerns that bereavement bubbles “would send the wrong message to the public” and “signal that everyone could relax their guard”.

But those who have lost family members to Covid-19 have dismissed the suggestion that allowing them an exemption to some lockdown restrictions would have equated to an inappropriate relaxation of the rules. 

"The British public understands the difference between a bereavement support bubble and a party,” Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice told PoliticsHome.

“To suggest that seeing family members come together to support one another at times of devastating loss would encourage the average person to disregard lockdown measures is offensive to the vast majority of the British public.

“While Number 10 was partying, the British people were largely united in preventing the spread of Covid 19 to keep our communities safe.”

In the surrounding months, staff at Downing Street had gathered on multiple occasions, allegedly in contravention of lockdown rules in place at the time.  

“I would have liked us to have trusted the public and to have explained why [bereaved individuals] might be allowed support first,” da Costa wrote.

“We didn’t,” she added. “This was the reality of the brutality required for Covid decision-making.”

Da Costa’s intervention comes hours before an abridged version of civil servant Sue Gray’s report into parties and party culture in Downing Street is due to be published online.

Responding to da Costa’s account of Covid-related decision making in Downing Street, the Conservative MP and lockdown sceptic Mark Harper, said: “A sobering read. Respect. Humility. Seriousness.

“Nikki da Costa has all those qualities and is a big loss to 10 Downing Street.”

Johnson is due to deliver a statement to the Commons, responding to Gray’s report, at 3.30pm today.

Afterwards MPs will have around 90 minutes to ask the Prime Minister relevant questions.

“It seems that the reluctance of those in Number. 10 to make sacrifices to protect others has coloured their opinion of the public,” Goodman told PoliticsHome.

“The question now is to what extent did ‘group think’ at the heart of government lead to dangerous decision making based on a poor opinion of the British public?"

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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