Asbestos victims forced to pay towards new mesothelioma scheme

Date published: 02 October 2008

A new government scheme to pay a lump sum to all mesothelioma sufferers, irrespective of occupational exposure, came into effect yesterday (1 October).

However, some asbestos victims are shocked and appalled to discover that some asbestosis sufferers and some mesothelioma sufferers will lose compensation in order to fund the scheme.

Alan Robinson, who suffers from asbestosis and was exposed to asbestos at Rochdale's T&N factory, said: “I stand to receive about £8,000 from a T&N Fund instead of the £50,000 I should have got. The government is going to recover £4,334 and I will be left with £3,666 from the Fund. Had I concluded my claim a few months ago I would have had nearly £12,000 in compensation. That’s been cut by a third. I fully support a lump sum payment to all mesothelioma sufferers, that is a right thing to do, but it is wrong to fund the new scheme by hitting asbestos victims like me.”

Asbestosis victims who cannot trace all the employers who exposed them to asbestos are only paid a proportion of damages in law. Consequently the courts did not allow them to lose the whole of their government lump sum payment.

From today, this will change and the government will recover the full lump sum from partial damages in law.

Turner & Newall victims, who only receive a small percentage of their compensation from T&N Funds, were allowed to keep government lump sum payments. From today, this will change and the government will recover the full lump sum.

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum believe that government recovery is not an unintended consequence of the new Act. Chairman Tony Whitston said: "It is deliberate policy and asbestos victims and the Forum are calling on government to amend the legislation so that asbestos victims do not end up funding the new scheme.

“The government never made it clear when it received so many plaudits for introducing the new scheme that it would use compensation from some asbestosis victims and some mesothelioma sufferers who worked for T&N to fund the new scheme. We are calling on government to take immediate steps to stop funding the new scheme by reducing further small amounts of compensation received by asbestos victims.”

Jason Addy, chairman of the Save Spodden Valley group, who have campaigned on behalf of Rochdale's asbestosis sufferers, agreed that the new scheme offers little joy to former T&N employees.

He said: "Although no amount of monetary compensation can replace the death of a loved one from this terrible asbestos cancer, there is an added injustice to those former T&N workers harmed by asbestos.

"As the example given by Tony Whitston shows, the deductions from what was already a relatively low amount of compensation can mean that asbestos cancer victims get a pittance.

"The further injustices that are now apparent with the fine detail of the new Scheme will be an important matter raised at the next All-Party subcommittee on Asbestos later this month.

"With cross-party action we welcome justice for those who need help at this most vulnerble time."

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