‘Not Perfect’ Asbestos Scheme Not Good Enough, Lawyers Warn

Rethink Vital If Mesothelioma Victims Are To Get Right Support

03.12.2013

Lawyers representing victims of asbestos-related disease have urged the Government to urgently rethink its proposed scheme to provide justice for those unable to trace a former employer’s insurer, after estimating that current proposals would mean those eligible missing out on up to £43,000 of vital funds for care and support.

Part of the Mesothelioma Bill, the scheme will allow claimants suffering from the cancer mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos, who are unable to trace a former employer’s insurer to gain compensation set at around 75 per cent of the average amount paid out in civil damages.

The Government says the scheme, which will apply to those diagnosed after July 2012, will provide support to over 300 victims of the fatal illness every year. However, this will still mean that thousands of others affected by asbestos-related disease will miss out.

In the second reading of the Bill on Monday (December 2nd), Disability Minister Mike Penning described the new proposals as “not perfect” but added “there was nothing there before and if we were to have carried on with the way it was going nothing would be there going forward for these people who are suffering so much”.

Adrian Budgen, national head of the asbestos-related disease team at Irwin Mitchell, has responded to the debate in the House of Commons on the issue.

Expert Opinion
Terminally ill people deserve far better than a scheme described by the Disability Minister as ‘not perfect’.

"Victims of mesothelioma have already paid the ultimate price as a result of their employers failing to protect them. However, the Government now saying the best it can offer is a system which is ‘not perfect’ is yet another failing which they do not deserve.

"The aim of this legislation should be to introduce the right scheme to help victims of asbestos-related disease – something that will simply not be achieved by the ‘better than nothing’ approach which is seemingly being taken.

"We have long described these proposals as a second-rate solution for a problem which is only expected to worsen in the coming years, and the debate on the issue has done little to quell these concerns. Quite simply, the measures do not go far enough.

"For example, we estimate that setting the level of compensation available through the scheme at around 75 per cent of the average civil damages payments will mean victims and their families will miss out on up to £43,000 approximately. This is not a lottery win, this is money which would pay for essential care, aid and equipment.

"Such funds would not only be important to ensure victims and families are able to get the care, support and aid they need during the final stages of the illness, but would also prove especially useful considering the plans would also see the Department for Work and Pensions recover 100 per cent of illness-related benefits paid out to victims.

"In addition, the scheme would only apply to victims diagnosed with mesothelioma from July 25th 2012, meaning many more sufferers would be missing out on the support they need and deserve. Why not offer the support to those diagnosed after February 2010, when Government consultations on this issue first began?

"All in all, the current proposals seem unfair and are far removed from what many asbestos victims and their families would have been hoping for when the Government began work on this issue. We would urge ministers to seriously consider a rethink on the plans to make sure they get the right proposals in place as soon as possible.”

“Cases related to mesothelioma are hugely complex in their nature, something which the proposals for this scheme and a planned portal system for other claims simply do not adequately reflect.

"This is about providing the right kind of support to innocent victims. Suggesting the plans are essentially ‘better than nothing’ will simply not do."
Adrian Budgen, Partner