Government mesothelioma cancer funding scheme "falls short of ideal"

Dated:

Legal experts say that while new government proposals to provide financial support for people who developed mesothelioma cancer at work are positive, they do not go far enough.

Asbestos Mesothelioma

The programme, which began on 25 July, comes more than 2 years after the then Labour government consulted on a "fund of last resort". This was seen as a way for mesothelioma victims to claim compensation previously denied because insurers of culpable employers could not be located.

The new scheme will enable around 3,000 such mesothelioma sufferers throughout the UK to benefit from some £300m in payments in the programme's first 10 years.

Given the high mortality rates – there are some 2,000 deaths each year from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases – experts in industrial illness claims have been cautious in their response to the announcement.

"Any assistance for victims of asbestos is clearly to be welcomed," said Simpson Millar LLP's Emma Costin. "However, this initiative falls short of ideal in terms of the amount of compensation that will be available to victims."

Emma added that there is also an issue of scope. "For example, there may be individuals suffering terminal lung cancer who cannot claim simply because their type of malignancy is not mesothelioma."

"It will also appear unfair to people diagnosed on 24th July to be told they are beyond the scheme's starting date by just 1 day."

The chief executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), Deborah Evans, welcomes the fact that the new proposals will "quite rightly" be funded by insurers. "[They] have fought tooth and nail against giving any help to people in desperate need of it."

However, Ms Evans said an opportunity had been missed to provide help for a wider range of people with very serious asbestos-related diseases. "It stops short of providing victims with the full compensation which they need and which they would receive through the courts."

Acknowledging ministers' grasp of the need for urgency, Ms Evans said the proposals' details need to be finalised.

"Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive disease and sufferers need help quickly, so it is critical that the government seeks a legislative slot to implement its proposals as soon as possible."

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