A BARNSLEY MP is demanding justice for local families bereaved by Covid-19 - after ministers were accused of failing them for being too slow to react when the pandemic struck last March.

Stephanie Peacock, who represents Barnsley East, has written to the government after meeting with the campaign group, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

Although an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic is proposed to start in spring next year, pressure is mounting for the date to be brought forward.

Ms Peacock’s letter also asked the government to be open and accountable on the progress it’s making towards beginning the inquiry, including any advancements on appointing a chair and defining the terms of reference.

This comes just a 150-page report from MPs was released, revealing that failures in the government’s handling of the pandemic ‘cost lives’.

The report, by the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, says the late lockdown in the early stages of the pandemic is ‘one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced’.

it also describes the start of the NHS Test and Trace system as ‘slow, uncertain and often chaotic’, although it also highlights the success of the vaccination programme.

She said: ‘Across Yorkshire and the Humber, over 13,000 people have lost their lives due to Covid-19.

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“Though this number is hard to comprehend - behind each of these lives lost are families, friends and loved ones whose lives will never be the same.

“There were some clear themes coming through in the report about the government simply acting too slow, particularly at the very beginning.

“Time was of the essence, and yet it was not at the forefront of the government’s mind.

“The government must bring forward the Covid-19 inquiry to allow bereaved families to have their concerns about the handling of the pandemic answered.

“Only then will they be afforded the ability to come to terms with their loss and begin to process their grief.”

Barnsley’s death rate is also still among the worst in the UK - as it has been for a number of months - with a rate of 348.7 per 100,000 people, with more than 865 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Legislation on the completion of death certificates was relaxed, leaving ill former miners and their families fearful this may prevent the referral of cases where industrial disease may have been a contributing factor in their death.

If underlying industrial diseases was not recorded on death certificates, the MP says it will be ‘impossible’ for grieving families to claim compensation, robbing them of their ability to get justice.

Ms Peacock added: “I already know of cases where grieving families are being denied justice, and I will continue to campaign for miners and their dependants to get the compensation they deserve.

“Many suffered from underlying health conditions due to their former occupation - years of coal dust inhalation left them with scarred and damaged lungs.

“As a result they were extremely vulnerable to Covid-19.

“I have been contacted by former miners who share the same fear that if they die during the outbreak, their death certificates will make no mention of their underlying health conditions.

“Miners and their families deserve compensation for the years of ill health brought on by their work down the pits.”