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INCREASE IN COMPENSATION PAYMENTS TO ASBESTOS VICTIMS

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Sufferers from asbestos and certain other dust related diseases, are to get increased compensation from the governm...
Sufferers from asbestos and certain other dust related diseases, are to get increased compensation from the government, environment minister Angela Eagle has announced. This compensation is for sufferers who cannot claim from their employer.

The new payments, under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers'

Compensation) Act 1979, ('the 1979 Act') are being increased from

the 1 September by 2.7 %, and range from£1,852 up to a maximum

of£52,610 according to the sufferer's age and disability. The

increased scales of compensation apply to those who first satisfy

all the entitlement conditions in the Act from 1 September 1997.

The 1979 Act provides compensation for victims of asbestos and other dust-related diseases (including pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, silicosis, mesothelioma, byssinosis and diffuse pleural thickening), and to certain dependants of sufferers who have died, who are unable to claim damages from the employers where the dust exposure which caused the disease occurred. The diseases covered by the 1979 Act generally take a long time to develop - as long as 40 years - and by the time the disease is diagnosed the employers responsible may have gone out of business, or the lapse of time may prove a major obstacle to bringing a successful court action.

Commenting on the increase, Angela Eagle said :

'We know that no amount of money can compensate for the misery and suffering caused by these diseases but the amounts provided under the scheme do give some assistance. We shall continue to review the amounts of payments under the scheme to keep them in line with the Retail Prices Index.

'We are not content simply to compensate those who have suffered in the past. We aim to put public health in the forefront of public priorities. Asbestos is one of the most serious occupational health problems facing this country. We have asked the Health and Safety Commission for urgent advice on placing a ban on the manufacture and importation of white asbestos. We are determined to ensure that risks to health and safety are properly addressed so that future generations do not suffer the same exposures and consequent loss of life.'

NOTES

1. Anyone who believes they might be eligible for payment under

the scheme should contact the Department of the Environment,

Transport and the Regions in London on 0171 890 4972 for further

details. Applicants should not wait until they have been awarded

industrial injuries benefit by the Benefits Agency.

2. Further information about the scheme, explanatory leaflets and application forms are available from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, HSFO (Health and Safety),

23rd Floor, Portland House, Stag Place, London, SW1E 5DF,

telephone 0171 890 4972 (fax 0171 890 4979).

3. It should be noted that British Coal have their own arrangements for providing compensation for miners who are suffering from Pneumoconiosis. Miners are NOT covered under the 1979 Act.

4. The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation)(Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 1997 were laid before Parliament in draft on 24 June 1997 and have received approval by both Houses. They increase payments under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 ('the 1979 Act') by 2.7% for persons who first become entitled to a payment on or after 1 September 1997.

5. The 1979 Act provides for lump sum payments to sufferers of the diseases listed below who cannot claim compensation through the courts because former employers who may have caused or contributed to their disease are no longer in business, or if they are still trading, there is no realistic chance of obtaining damages from the employer. Dependants of sufferers who have died can also claim payments.

The diseases covered by the 1979 Act are :

-- pneumoconiosis (which includes silicosis - associated with slate quarrying, asbestosis,and kaolinosis - associated with china clay)

-- byssinosis (associated with exposure to cotton dust)

-- diffuse mesothelioma (asbestos related cancer)

-- diffuse pleural thickening (asbestos related)

-- primary carcinoma of the lung (only if accompanied by asbestosis or diffuse pleural thickening)

6. Since the Act came into force in 1980, over 9,200 applicants have made a claim and approximately 71% of those have received a payment. The total cost to date has been£48.7m.

7. Award of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit by the Benefits Agency of the Department of Social Security is a precondition for payments under the Act to all sufferers and most dependants.

8. The 2.7 % increase in payments is in line with recent increases in the Retail Price Index and will ensure that as of 1 March 1997 the cumulative increase in the level of payments under the scheme since it began in January 1980 mirrors that of the cumulative increase in the Retail Prices Index over the same period.

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