Daughter’s Petition Calling on Government to Act on Asbestos in Schools Goes Viral, as Mother Battles Final Stages of Cancer


The family of a much-loved primary school teacher, who is fighting for her life after developing a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, has launched a petition calling on the Government to do more to protect children and staff at affected schools.

The dangers of asbestos should not be ignored

Lucie Stephens' mother Sue Stephens, who lives in Crediton, Devon, taught more than 800 children in her 30 years in the classroom, but is now dying from mesothelioma – a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure that can lie dormant for many years. Now she is terminally ill, and believes the cancer has been caused by the job she loved. She is supported by asbestos expert Helen Grady at Simpson Millar.

Her daughter Lucie has promised her mother she will do all she can to raise awareness of the issue of asbestos in schools, as children and teachers continue to be exposed to this potentially lethal material.

Lucie has launched a petition asking the Government to ensure all schools in the UK produce an annual report about the type and condition of any asbestos they have on the premises, and to be required to share this with all parents and staff, with every child's potential exposure to asbestos recorded and shared with parents.

In just three days she has garnered more than 1,500 signatures, and wants Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan to take action to protect those children and teaching staff at risk.

Lucie Stephens said: "Mum was a brilliant teacher and was really loved by her pupils and colleagues. She retired in 2008 after almost 30 years of teaching in Buckinghamshire. A couple of years later Mum and Dad decided to move from Marlow to Crediton in Devon, to enjoy their retirement, give themselves more room for gardening and their bee keeping and to enjoy the beautiful countryside. In Devon Mum has created a lovely home with an amazing garden. It's full of birds, flowers and wildlife which delights her three grandchildren, Arietta, (5 yrs), May, (4yrs) and Marnie, (1 yr) who all adored visiting her."

"Mum's diagnosis in September 2014 was a terrible shock because she's always been so healthy. Initially we were optimistic, as Mum felt OK and remained very active, doing lots of gardening, babysitting for her grandchildren and regularly walking her dog up on Exmoor. She bravely got on with chemotherapy and radiotherapy but neither treatment helped. She also tried to get on to new drug trials but sadly she wasn't well enough to take part. Mum has been in hospital recently but is now back at home with Dad caring for her full-time. My brother and I are spending as much time with her as possible in her last few weeks of life."

"We are all devastated that this has happened and can't bear the thought of life without Mum. Meanwhile she typically, is worried for all the teachers and children that continue to be unknowingly exposed to asbestos at school. That's why we decided to start the petition. It's been touching and incredibly sad that many people who are signing the petition have also lost a relative from asbestos in schools. It has gone on for far too long and I hate the thought that other people will suffer like Mum, when this disease is completely preventable."

In addition to the annual reports, Lucie is also calling for the Government to introduce a policy for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools to be completed by 2028. This is in line with the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety produced in February 2012.

Helen Grady, partner at Simpson Millar who is working on the case for the Stephens family, said:

"Representing Susan Stephens in this exceptionally sad case, I am deeply touched by all of the supportive comments and signatures provided for this Asbestos in Schools campaign."

"Whilst it is highly likely I will succeed in recovering damages in this mesothelioma civil claim for wrongful exposures to asbestos, it is unlikely there will be any apologies to the Stephens family."

"True justice will hopefully come for Susan and her family if the Schools Minister agrees to address these very real, current and painful issues surrounding asbestos exposure in schools."

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