February 20, 2019

Asbestos payout scheme 'does not go far enough'

Campaigners for Hampshire victims of asbestos exposure have welcomed a controversial scheme that will land victims an average of £126,000 compensation but say the measures do not go far enough.

Payouts to people diagnosed with mesothelioma, or the families of those who have died, are on course to reach £32m in their first year.

The scheme was launched earlier this year, aimed at helping victims unable to trace the employer who exposed them to the deadly asbestos dust, but critics say it is the product of a “cynical deal” between insurers and the Government.

Figures in Hampshire, particularly Southampton, Eastleigh and Gosport, are well above the average number of deaths caused by the condition.

Lynne Squibb, co-founder of Hampshire Asbestos Support and Awareness Group, said the scheme would help victims but criticised its shortcomings.

She says one of the main problems is that only victims diagnosed after July 2012 will receive payouts, denying help to huge numbers of cases.

Lynne said: “We were incredibly disappointed that it only covers mesothelioma, and it doesn’t cover people whose husbands worked with asbestos or self-employed people either. It’s not perfect and we are undertaking to work with the Government to help ensure that the scheme improves.”

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, typically the lungs. It can take 40 years to develop after exposure – but then kills within nine months, on average.

Hampshire is a renowned black-spot, because asbestos was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said: “I think it’s long overdue.

“I am pleased that it [the money] has been coming through and it has been a long struggle for money that could have helped to ease people at a very difficult time at the end of their lives.”

By October, after seven months of the scheme, 232 applications had been received and 131 payments made, totalling £16.5m.

Mark Harper, the minister for disabled people, said the total amount that insurers were expected to pay out in 2014-15 was £32m, based on the first payments.

He said: “I am proud of what Government and stakeholders have achieved in delivering the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.”

Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year.

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Asbestos payout scheme 'does not go far enough'