The Department for Work and Pensions has said that more than £84 million in compensation has been awarded to sufferers of mesothelioma, or the families of those who have died from the disease, under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme set up in 2014 by the Government.
The average lump sum payment made through the scheme – which was set up by the ABI and the Government – in the six months between April and September 2016 was around £141,000, up from £135,000 in 2015/16. The scheme is funded by a levy on the insurance industry, set this year at £40.4 million.
Diffuse mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure, caused the death of 2,515 people in Great Britain in 2014, according to Health and Safety Executive figures. The disease is usually fatal, and most patients die within 12 months of their diagnosis.
The deadline to apply to the scheme is three years from diagnosis. For those applicants diagnosed between 25 July 2012 and 5 April 2014, the deadline is 5 April 2017.
Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, said: “It is absolutely right that the government steps in to help people who cannot get the compensation they deserve from their former employers. I want to ensure all who might benefit from this scheme are aware of it.”
However, Andrew James, an industrial disease lawyer and senior associate at Hodge Jones & Allen, said that the scheme had paid out less that expected to date, but that none of the savings made by the underpayment had been allocated to further research into mesothelioma.
“At the time the Mesothelioma Bill was passed, the government made a commitment in Parliament to set a levy at 3% of gross working premium on insurers to fund the scheme,” said James. “In fact, due to fewer applicants than were envisaged, the insurers were able to enjoy only a 2.2% levy last year.”
On 12 January the new levy was announced in Parliament by the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, and set at 1.7%. This was due, said James, to the fact that the underpayment of nearly £8 million from the previous year would be carried over so as a saving for insurers.
“No suggestion was made that the level of compensation for those dying of mesothelioma, nor their families, should be raised to 100% of the actual value of the claim or that the underspend could be used to help fund mesothelioma research.
“Based on the latest figures from the HSE, it is projected that 53,000 people in the UK will die of mesothelioma in the next 25 years. In view of the long latency of this disease, many of their employers and insurers will be untraced.
“The money saved by the insurers could have been used to ensure full compensation to those victims – or used to help fund the research into this disease. According to the National Cancer Research Institute, only £820,000 was available in 2014 for mesothelioma research.”