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The UK Government Asbestos Compensation Schemes

Anyone suffering from an asbestos-related illness is entitled to compensation from dedicated government compensation schemes or by making a civil claim against those responsible. If the individual has sadly died from an illness linked to asbestos, family members may be entitled to compensation in certain circumstances.

Mesothelioma benefits and financial help

There are various routes available to get financial help and stability if you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition. Three dedicated government asbestos compensation schemes, for example, are aimed at ensuring that as many people as possible in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland who are suffering from an asbestos-linked illness have a chance to claim compensation in a short time period.

These schemes are crucial as many people are unable, because of legal time limits, to start a claim for personal injury compensation in the usual way. You could also claim benefits, including Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB), in the way of financial support while you adapt to living with what we know are distressing conditions.

Asbestos-related conditions

Exposure to asbestos and asbestos dust is known to cause serious life-threatening illnesses. Sadly, the dangers associated with asbestos were not appreciated until it was too late for thousands of workers. Today, strict health and safety regulations apply to businesses that deal with asbestos and the dangers are much lower.

However, the continuing reality is that many people are still being diagnosed with serious illnesses related to asbestos. Symptoms may not start until years after the individual is exposed. The most common conditions linked to asbestos are:

  • Mesothelioma – A rare, aggressive cancer developing in the lining of the lung and is mostly linked to asbestos exposure. It is the leading cause of asbestos-related deaths.
  • Asbestosis – A serious and progressive lung disease caused by long-term exposure to asbestos.
  • Lung cancer – Lung cancer develops in the lung itself. Unlike mesothelioma, it may spread to other organs.

Sufferers from these conditions have several potential routes to claiming compensation, depending on the nature and extent of their condition. How they can secure maximum financial support depends on their particular circumstance, and you must get expert legal help.

We can help. An expert legal adviser can arrange a free initial consultation with a specialist solicitor experienced in asbestos claims. Contact one now on 0800 234 6438.

DID YOU KNOW: A quarter of tradespeople across the UK are exposed to potentially lethal asbestos each week, a survey from Electrical Direct. (Source)

Who Can Claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness related directly to asbestos exposure while they were employed, you can start a claim for IIDB. Note that it is not available for you if you were self-employed at the place where you were exposed.

You can claim if the employer has gone out of business (so cannot be sued directly). This is typically the case for many individuals who develop an illness many years later when the business is no longer operating.

Applications can be complex given the nature of certain illnesses and the period involved, not to mention having to deal with it when you’re unwell and probably undergoing regular treatment.

It can be highly reassuring to know that specialist personal injury lawyers are experienced in claiming IIBD and recovering compensation and lump sum payments from government schemes for claimants in these circumstances.

Finding a specialist solicitor who can give you the best advice is your best chance of securing early compensation for mesothelioma, cancer, and other conditions linked to asbestos exposure. You can speak with an expert sympathetic legal adviser who will put you in contact with the right lawyer for your case.

FACT: More than 150 people in York and Scarborough have had a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis in the five years to 2023, according to the York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. (Source)

Am I eligible?

You must be able to satisfy your local IIBD Centre that:

  • The disease must have been caused by exposure to asbestos during your employment.
  • You are unable to make a civil claim because the employer is no longer trading.
  • You’ve not previously issued proceedings against an employer (or received compensation from it) for the disease.
  • The work that caused your disease was more than 20 years ago.

What happens next?

Applications are based on the information you’ve provided – which is why it’s so important to have legal assistance to ensure it is as complete as possible.

You may be asked to attend a face-to-face medical assessment, but not if your illness is terminal. Nor will you be asked to undergo a medical examination if you’re diagnosed with diffuse mesothelioma or primary carcinoma of the lung from asbestos exposure, or where there is accompanying evidence of asbestosis.

FACT: There were 1,920 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2021 – that’s 5 every day. (Source)

How much asbestos compensation would I receive?

This depends on the state of your health; specifically, assessors will consider the level of disability you are experiencing. The single lump sum payment scheme is based on a fixed tariff according to the level of disability (scaled from 1 to 100%), as follows:

From April 2024, the maximum you are entitled to (i.e. 100% disability) is £221.5, then as the level of disability decreases:

  • 90% disability – £199.35
  • 80% – £177.20
  • 70% – £155.05
  • 60% – £132.90
  • 50% – £110.75
  • 40% – £88.60
  • 30% – £66.45
  • 20% – £44.30

Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

Mesothelioma and lung cancers caused by asbestos exposure are life-limiting and devastating for the sufferer and their family. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are other benefits, in addition to IIDB, that you may be entitled to and can make life easier- especially, for instance, if you need full-time care.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

You can claim PIP if you’re under 65 (state pension age) and need financial help with the cost of living with your condition, such as the cost of care. There are two parts to this:

The attendance allowance element (from April 2024) is £108.55 (enhanced rate) or £72.65 (standard)

The mobility element is paid (as of April 2024) at a weekly rate of £75.75 or £28.70 (depending on your disability).

If you’re eligible for the mobility component, you’d have access to the Motability scheme which provides accessible transport for the disabled. You can also consider applying for a Blue Parking Badge to make shopping and travelling around easier for you and those caring for you.

Attendance Allowance

Similar to PIP, you can claim this if you are at least state pension age.

What other benefits might I be eligible for?

Carer’s allowance may be available but this will be claimed by the carer rather than you personally (though you must be receiving either attendance allowance or PIP).

This allowance is granted if someone else – who doesn’t have to be a family member – is caring for you for upwards of 35 hours per week.

The Government Compensation Schemes

Illnesses caused by asbestos are different from most other occupational illnesses and injuries. What makes them almost unique is that the symptoms of ill-health may not start to present themselves until years, sometimes decades, after the individual was exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

This means it can be particularly difficult for the individual to be able to recover compensation directly from the employer for what’s transpired – even though it wasn’t their fault. Thankfully, the problem has been formally recognised by the government – and three forms of compensation payment schemes are now available to the victims of asbestos-related conditions (depending on the circumstances).

The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979

The government introduced this legislation to enable people suffering from certain conditions to claim lump sum payments. Payments under the PWCA scheme can be as high as:

You can claim for:

  • Diffuse mesothelioma
  • Pneumoconiosis (including asbestosis, silicosis, and kaolinosis, etc.)
  • Byssinosis
  • Primary carcinoma of the lung with evidence of asbestosis
  • Primary carcinoma of the lung after exposure to asbestos under certain circumstances
  • Unilateral or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening.

Learn more about Pleural Thickening Compensation Claims

Am I eligible?

To qualify for a lump sum under the PWCA:

You must receive Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) (or have been getting it) about the asbestos-related disease (see below for more on IIDB)

  • You must have been employed. Claims under the 1979 Act cannot be brought by someone who was, for instance, self-employed.
  • The employer/s responsible for the unsafe working conditions is no longer in business (or if they are – there’s no realistic prospect of recovering compensation from them)
  • You haven’t taken court action against an employer or recovered compensation for the illness
  • The work which caused the disease was more than 20 years ago

You must claim from this scheme within twelve months of being approved for IIDB. Late applications might still be considered but exceptional circumstances will need to be present. If you’re worried you may be out of time, just contact a legal advisor to check if you should still put in a claim.

How much could I get?

This depends on your particular case and is assessed against a payment tariff. The factors that will be taken into account will include the nature of the disease (eg pneumoconiosis), the extent of disability, and the applicant’s age.

For example, if you were 60 years old when you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, your lump sum would be as much as £50,300; and if you were 40 you could be awarded as much as £82,720.

The Mesothelioma Payment Schemes

Not every sufferer is entitled to a lump sum payment under the 1979 Act. For example, it does not provide compensation to those who were self-employed at the time. Nor does it enable a compensation route for others who have become ill after being exposed to asbestos, e.g. family members who regularly washed workers’ clothes containing asbestos particles.

If you’re not entitled under the 1979 Act, you may be able to make a mesothelioma compensation claim through the 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme or the 2014 Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme.

These are two separate schemes.

The 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme

The 2008 Scheme enables mesothelioma sufferers to apply for a one-off lump sum payment. The scheme was established in recognition of the fact that some victims had no legal redress and typically died soon after diagnosis.

To claim under the 2008 UK government asbestos compensation scheme, you must satisfy these conditions:

  • You cannot claim under the 1979 Act
  • You’ve not received compensation from anyone else
  • You’re not entitled to claim from the Ministry of Defence scheme
  • Claims must be brought within one year of diagnosis

How much would I be entitled to?

Assuming your claim is successful, you’ll receive a one-off payment and you’d typically receive it within six weeks of submitting your claim. The amount of the lump sum is fixed, depending on the age you were when first diagnosed. The date of diagnosis is important because two tariffs apply, depending on whether you were diagnosed before or after April 2024.

For example, if you were diagnosed under the age of 38 but on or after 1 April 2024, you’d receive a maximum of £114,210. Diagnosis at age 38 before April 2024, you’d receive a maximum of £107,038.

For diagnosis aged 50 from 1 April, you’d receive £88,262 (max); £82,720 if diagnosed earlier.

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (2014)

In 2014, a new scheme – the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) – was introduced under The Mesothelioma Act 2014. This scheme, (a scheme of ‘last resort’), allows for payments to individuals diagnosed with diffuse mesothelioma following asbestos exposure either negligently or in breach of statutory duty by their employers, but are unable to claim directly from the employer or its insurer.

This scheme is funded by a levy on insurance companies, rather than the 2008 government-funded scheme. Notably, the 2014 scheme provides an additional amount for a claimant’s legal fees.

It’s not intended to replace a civil claim by the individual and applicants will be rejected if you can make an injury claim through the civil courts. However, the government makes clear that you can claim under this scheme even if you have already claimed from the 2008 scheme or under the 1979 Act.

The practical impact is that if you’ve received payments under either of them, the amount will be deducted from any payment you get from the DMPS.

Am I entitled?

You must have a formal diagnosis of diffuse mesothelioma and no other route to recover compensation, e.g. against the employer.

Your application form must be submitted within three years of your original diagnosis of diffuse mesothelioma. Applications take about 6 weeks to be turned around.

How much would I receive?

Payments are made by a fixed tariff, for example (important: the figures below include £7,000 towards legal fees):

If you’re under 41 when diagnosed – £271,120 (the maximum available)

  • Aged 45 – £252,715
  • Aged 55 – £215,903
  • Aged 65 – £179,091
  • Aged 75 – £142,279
  • Aged 80 – £123,874
  • Aged 85 – £105,468
  • Aged 90+ – £87,061 (the minimum available)

The full payment tariff is available here

DID YOU KNOW: In the year to April 2023, an average of £142,000 was paid out to claimants under the DMPS. Since its 2014 launch, more than £280 million has been paid out to more than 1,915 individuals. (Source)

Can my application be fast-tracked?

We understand how quickly people suffering from mesothelioma can deteriorate; and that applications and claims can sometimes take time – particularly if it’s a civil compensation claim (which can take years).

In serious cases where the condition is likely to become terminal very quickly, the High Court can deal with urgent cases expeditiously using its fast track specialist asbestos claims list. This is governed by a practice direction of the court – the Mesothelioma Practice Direction (PDD3).

It allows for mesothelioma claims to be put before the judge promptly and where the defendant (usually the employer) denies liability, they are required to show sufficient evidence to support their denial.

Our legal advisors can ensure you will be partnered with a specialist in urgent asbestos claims to minimise any delays to you receiving your compensation.

Fortunately, claims through government schemes are dealt with quickly in any event and your specialist lawyer will ensure your claim is prepared efficiently and fully to avoid the risk of any delays.

I lost a loved one to an asbestos-linked disease: can I claim?

UK law recognises that losing a loved one to a serious illness (or injury) caused by another party is devastating.  Subject to certain conditions, the dependants of a person who has died in such circumstances can claim compensation if an application was not submitted (or turned around) before death.

In the case of deaths caused by exposure to asbestos, dependents can usually apply under one of the schemes if they have lost a parent or partner. A dependant is usually the spouse or partner of the deceased; a child or other close relative who was financially reliant on them at the time they died.

The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979

Dependants can claim lump sum payments where the employer responsible cannot be held liable because they have gone out of business. The minimum amount payable to a dependent under the PWCA is £3,771.

Note that you can’t claim as a dependant if a claim has been made under the DMPS scheme for the same disease.

The 2008 scheme

Under the 2008 scheme, eligible dependants are entitled to payments where the person has died from (or was suffering from) diffuse mesothelioma.

If you’re a dependant, you must start your claim within one year of your loved one’s death.

Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme

If you’ve lost someone to diffuse mesothelioma, dependents can apply for a one off payment from the DMPS scheme if the deceased was eligible – but did not make an application. The payment will, however, be lower than if the application was made while they were still alive.

If your loved one died before their application was processed, their DMPS payment will go to the personal representatives – and the amount will then form part of their estate.

Could payments affect my other benefits?

Any payments you receive may affect any benefits you receive, eg universal credit, housing benefit, or income support. It’s therefore important to carefully consider the potential implications on your finances.

A lump sum payment may be subject to a clawback if you’ve been paid means-tested benefits. The amount paid out will be potentially recoverable under the Social Security (Recovery of Benefits) Act 1997. The aim is to refund the public purse for benefits paid out but for which you have now received compensation. It essentially prevents double compensation for the same losses.

Your solicitor will explain to you how this may work in practice in your case (if at all). You must understand that though receiving a lump sum will of course be welcome, it could have an unexpected impact in ways you don’t anticipate.

Do I have to claim via these schemes?

Not in every case. If it is possible – the civil route to claiming compensation should be your first port of call.

Many victims of asbestos-related illnesses recover substantial sums by making a civil compensation claim against the employer responsible for exposing them to asbestos. All employers have a duty of care to minimise the risks to the health and safety of those working on their premises – whether that’s on a construction site or warehouse, or in a hospital or public building.

Employers are aware of the risks presented by asbestos and are expected to undertake regular risk assessments and ensure asbestos is handled safely, with appropriate PPE being supplied.

Anyone exposed to asbestos and who later becomes ill as a direct result can make a legal claim directly against the employer (usually via their insurer).

A legal advisor can arrange a free consultation with specialist solicitors who are experienced in asbestos claims. Contact us now on 0800 234 6438 for guidance as to how you can bring your no win no fee injury claim for an asbestos-related disease.

Personal injury claims, including for asbestos-related illnesses, should be started within three years of knowing your workplace was the cause.  If you discover you’re ‘out of time’, your solicitor can discuss the dedicated government schemes with you to ensure you are not left without the financial support you deserve.

FACT: Asbestos is responsible for the deaths of around 5,000 workers every year in the UK, with 2,268 deaths from mesothelioma in 2021. (Source)

Help for people who were in the armed forces

The government schemes are not usually available for ex-service personnel who have become ill after exposure to asbestos dust while on active service.  Nor can army veterans make a civil claim against the Ministry of Defence, as employer, if the exposure pre-dated May 1987. Where exposure was after May 1987, when the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987 was passed, a civil claim for compensation can be made.

This is not the case for civilians who were employed by the MoD.  So, if an armed forces veteran was also working in a civilian role and was exposed to asbestos dust in that civilian role – they may be able to make a civil claim or be entitled under one or more of the government compensation schemes.

However, if not entitled as  a civilian, ex-service personnel may be entitled to claim via alternative routes:

  • War pension scheme – this is similar to the IIDB scheme and is available for any asbestos illness or death (and any other illness or injury) caused while in service before 6 April 2005. If you’re eligible, you may be entitled to weekly or monthly pension payments if your level of disablement is more than 20%.
  • War pension payment – If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you could well be entitled to a one off payment of £140,000.

Our legal advisers can discuss these pension payments with you to see what your options are.

All Claims Are No Win, No Fee

Your personal injury claims will be taken on a No Win No Fee basis. This means that if your claim is unsuccessful then you will not have any legal fees or costs to pay out. If your claim is successful, you will pay what’s called a ‘success fee’ to your solicitors to cover your legal costs.

The success fee will never exceed 25% of the amount you are awarded. No Win No Fee removes any financial risk to you in bringing a claim.

Have You Any Questions? Call for Free Advice on 0800 234 6438. Or if you prefer, complete the online form here, leave your details, and request a callback.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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