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July 25, 2012

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Government pledges extra support for asbestos victims

Compensation in the region of £300m over 10 years will be made available to around 3000 mesothelioma sufferers who are currently frozen out of pursuing damages because they cannot trace either a liable employer, or employers’ liability insurer.

A new scheme, funded by insurers, will be operational by July 2014, subject to legislation, the Government has announced. Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma from 25 July 2012 will be eligible to make a claim.

Introducing the initiative, Minister for Welfare Lord Freud said: “The new scheme will mean that, for the first time, sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma, who cannot trace either a liable employer or employers’ liability insurer, will have access to extra payments.”

Under the new scheme, membership of the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) – which runs an electronic database of employers’ liability (EL) policies – will become compulsory for all EL insurers to ensure that where there is a liable insurer, they will pay the claim.

The package of measures includes a levy on current EL insurers to fund the scheme at an estimated cost of £25-£35 million a year, as well as various changes to speed up the process of providing support for mesothelioma victims.

ABI director-general Otto Thoresen said: “Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive cancer and the insurance industry, working with government, is determined to do all it can to ensure that sufferers get the support they need as soon as possible.”

It has taken the Government and the insurance industry more than two years to devise a way of providing more support for sufferers of mesothelioma – a disease that can take 30 or 40 years to develop following initial exposure to asbestos. One option proposed during the consultation in 2010 was for an insurance fund of last resort, similar to the existing Motor Insurance Bureau. Campaigners say the agreed scheme is a watered-down version of this proposal.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the extra funding would provide some financial security for those suffering from the disease, but lamented that the support falls well short of what was previously proposed by ministers in the consultation.

He said: “Compensation should be available to all those who cannot get justice because, through no fault of their own, their insurer cannot be traced. While this scheme will come as a relief to those with mesothelioma, it will provide no help for workers who develop other cancers or life-threatening diseases, and who find themselves with no means of claiming compensation.”
“We hope that the legislation to introduce this scheme can be passed as soon as possible and that, even at this late stage, ministers will consider widening its scope to make it fairer for all workers whose jobs have made them dangerously ill.”

Claimants suffering from asbestosis, pleural thickening and asbestos-related lung cancer are excluded from the scheme, yet, according to the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, these constitute half of all asbestos diseases.

The Forum’s chair, Tony Whitston, said: “We must welcome this first movement on untraced insurance, which provides compensation for mesothelioma sufferers, but we are disappointed at the reduced amounts payable, and we are bitterly disappointed at the exclusion of so many people who suffer from diseases such as asbestosis, or lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.€

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11 years ago

I’m based in NZ but am trying to find some info for my family. My Nan was diagnosed with mesothelioma early July and we don’t know where her exposure has come from. Her husband used to be a builder so quite possibly via his clothes. Who can we contact to find out more about this, or should the healthcare professionals have all the information?

11 years ago

Jo, I suggest you contact the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum in the first instance, who should point you in the right direction –

Good luck.