The public consultation on the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference has now closed. During the consultation period, the Inquiry team and I have met with over 150 bereaved families and many representatives of a wide range of interested groups.
I understand that for many people engaging with the Inquiry may have been a difficult and distressing process. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the members of bereaved families who spoke to me at our private meetings in Cardiff, Exeter, Winchester, London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester, Cambridge, Leeds and Liverpool. Their contributions were very moving and very helpful.
My team and I also heard from Long Covid survivors and met with experts and representatives from the following sectors: equalities, health, social care, post-16 education, children, the Justice system, charities, faith leaders, the scientific community, frontline and key workers, local government, travel and tourism, business, the arts, heritage organisations, sports and the leisure industry. A transcript of these meetings will be published on the website.
I would also like to thank the thousands of people who took the time to fill in the online consultation. The Inquiry team is currently collating and analysing the responses and a summary of the responses will be published in May.
All the contributions will help me in advising the Prime Minister of the content of the Terms of Reference, which are the foundation of the Inquiry’s work. However, it is when I determine the scope of the Inquiry that the detail of the issues to be investigated will become clearer. Some of the suggestions made during the consultation may not change the Terms of Reference themselves but they may well be highly relevant in developing the scope.
I hope to make my final recommendations on the UK Covid-19 Inquiry’s Terms of Reference to the Prime Minister in May. He will then make his final decision on the Terms of Reference. Once I have his decision, the Inquiry will begin its work formally.
In the meantime, my team and I are working hard to analyse the many issues that the Inquiry will have to cover and produce a plan of the way we intend to work and gather evidence. We shall begin evidence gathering as soon as possible after the Inquiry has been formally established.
In addition, we are planning a Listening Project which we hope to launch in the autumn. Many of the bereaved have told me about the loss of their loved ones, their grief and the effect on their mental health. Through the Listening Project the Inquiry will seek to understand more about how the pandemic has affected people, in a less formal setting than a public hearing.
Once again, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the consultation process.
Baroness Heather Hallett, Chair of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry