Family of struggling Newcastle hospital cleaner raise almost £30,000 for children after Covid death

Judith became ill very quickly.
Judith Thorpe died after suffering what is believed to have been a rare reaction to covid. Credit: Family photo

The family of an NHS cleaner who died from Covid is fundraising to support her children after she cashed in her pension to make ends meet.

Judith Thorpe, 49, of Newcastle, is believed to have suffered a rare reaction to the virus, which affected her spine and brain, and died two days after being admitted to hospital.

It was only after her death on Wednesday 10 August that her son Lewis Wood realised the extent to which she had been struggling financially.

Almost £30,000 has been raised to support her two teenage daughters, Hannah, 16, and 13-year-old Scarlett, as well as pay for her funeral costs.

Mr Wood, 24, said: "She was quite closed. She didn't want the kids to know or even me, to a degree.

"I'm discovering things now about how bad her situation got.

"She would tell me 'I'm not using the dryer anymore, I'm not doing this, I'm not doing that, I'm not going out to see my friends anymore'.

"She was cutting little trips. The notice I got was the disappearance of the things I knew she loved."

Mr Wood, who described his mother as "the lynchpin of the family", has now taken on the role of carer for his younger sisters, whose father died of pancreatic cancer.

The family is now urging the government to do more to help people who are struggling with the cost of living.

"They (the government) just need to do more," added Mr Wood. "More needs to be done. More can be done. Of course more can be done."

Despite working as a hospital cleaner for 10 months, Ms Thorpe's family said they are not entitled to any compensation - as the family of an NHS staff member who died of Covid - after the scheme ended in March this year.

Mr Wood's partner Abbie Wood said: "Covid is still here and still affecting people. And the fact that the covid payment to NHS staff who died from covid ended in March is a disgrace. It's ended too early."

Judith Thorpe had been working as an NHS cleaner for 10 months before her death. Credit: Family photo

A spokesperson for HM Treasury said: "We know that rising prices are causing significant challenges for families, which is why we have continually taken action to help households by phasing in £37 billion worth of support throughout the year, which includes specific support to help people through the difficult winter ahead.

“We are making necessary preparations to ensure a new government will have options to deliver additional support as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, a representative from The Department of Health and Social Care said: "The death of every NHS or social care worker is a tragedy, and the government is grateful for the immense contribution of all frontline staff during the unprecedented pandemic response period.

"The Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme was introduced in recognition of the exceptional risks faced by NHS and social care staff working during the peak period of the pandemic.

"The scheme was always intended to be time-limited and closed on 31 March 2022 as by this point the number of staff deaths had fallen sharply and reduced the need for an exceptional life assurance scheme.

"NHS staff continue to be eligible for death in service benefits via membership of the NHS Pension Scheme in the normal way."

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