New aid package for asbestos sufferers ‘too limited’ say lawyers and unions

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A move to make it easier for victims of asbestos-related cancer to claim compensation has been announced.

Newly-diagnosed victims of mesothelioma who developed the disease after being exposed at work will receive help through the new support scheme, Welfare Minister Lord Freud said.

It is estimated that the £300m scheme, funded by insurers, will help 3,000 victims over the next 10 years who are not able to claim compensation.

Many sufferers are unable to claim compensation because the disease takes many years to develop and the companies they worked for may no longer exist.

Lord Freud said: “We have worked tirelessly, together with the insurance industry, to agree this package of measures on behalf of those who face this terrible disease.

“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.”

Association of British Insurers 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. This package of measures will deliver help to claimants much faster, including to those who would otherwise go uncompensated.”

But asbestos law experts at the firm Irwin Mitchell said the scheme is “limited” and many people will miss out as it applies only to people suffering from the asbestos-related cancer, not other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos specialist Adrian Budgen said: “While this is good news for some and a positive step forward, it could be devastating news for others and we are extremely disappointed that this scheme only covers one form of illness related to asbestos, and only those that are diagnosed with mesothelioma from today.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This new system will at least help provide some financial security to mesothelioma victims and the families of those who develop this devastating disease, but it falls well short of the scheme proposed a few years ago.”