The effects of an asbestos-related disease can be devastating and victims will need – and have earned – as much support as possible to help them cope with the consequences.
As well as potential compensation, there are a number of Government benefits available to people who have developed a lung condition after being exposed to asbestos dust and fibres, perhaps as long as 50 years ago. These can be for substantial amounts of money and can help meet the financial burden of living with a serious illness.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, pleural plaques or asbestosis, then it is important that you investigate your eligibility for Government benefits.
Some of the benefits may require a face-to-face assessment to check eligibility but this will be done by a health professional and at a location convenient to the sufferer.
The Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB), which helps people who are ill or disabled due to an accident or disease caused by work.
The amount you receive depends on your individual circumstances. This will be assessed by a ‘medical advisor’ on a scale of 1 to 100%. The higher the per cent, the higher the amount of money a person will receive from the Government.
Normally, you must be assessed as 14% or more to get the benefit.
Please remember that IIDB can also impact on other benefits a person claims.
Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 could help some people if their ex-employer no longer exists, or the employer’s liability insurer cannot be traced. This is a lump sum and can be a significant amount which is paid quickly by the government.
To get a payment you must meet all the following conditions:
- Your asbestos-related disease must have been caused by your employment
- You have been awarded Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for one of the listed diseases, which include diffuse mesothelioma and a number of other asbestos-related diseases such as primary carcinoma of the lung
- You must claim for this within 12 months of being awarded Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- You have not brought a court action or received compensation from an employer in respect of the disease
You may be able to make a claim if you are the dependant of someone who suffered from a dust-related disease (e.g. mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening) but who has died. A dependant’s claim must be made within 12 months of the death of the sufferer.
The 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme can provide a lump sum payment for those who are not entitled to a payment under the 1979 Act. For example:
- If the exposure to asbestos did not occur in the workplace
- If they came into contact with asbestos from a relative, e.g. by washing their clothes (‘secondary’ or ‘shake-down’ exposure)
- If the source of the asbestos exposure is unknown, or the employer or insurer cannot be traced
- If the sufferer’s exposure to asbestos was while self-employed
You may be able to claim a one-off lump sum payment if you:
- Are unable to make a claim under the 1979 Pneumoconiosis Act
- Have not received payment in respect of the disease from an employer, a civil claim or elsewhere
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are there to assist those with long term ill health.
DLA is a tax-free benefit. The rate you get is made up of two components. How much you get depends on how your disability or health condition affects you.
The care component is there for people who need supervision or help with preparation throughout the day, for example with making meals and personal care.
The mobility component is for people who need guidance or supervision outdoors, or have any other, more severe, walking difficulty.
PIP helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability if you are aged 16 to 64. You could get between £21.80 and £139.75 a week. The rate depends on how your condition affects you, not the condition itself.
You will need an assessment to work out the level of help you receive. Your rate will be regularly reassessed to make sure you are getting the right support.
Benefits for carers looking after someone with an asbestos-related disease
Financial support is also available for spouses, loved-ones and partners who care for an asbestos victim. Under these circumstances a carer should contact their council’s social services department to ask for a carer’s assessment. The council can offer practical assistance at home and financial support through benefits. These benefits may include:
Attendance Allowance pays for personal care for those aged 65 or over. It is paid at two different rates – a higher and lower rate – and how much you get depends on the level of care that you need because of your disability. You might get a letter asking you to attend an assessment to check your eligibility for the benefit.
It is worth remembering that you could get extra Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction if you receive Attendance Allowance.
Carer’s Allowance is for family or friends looking after someone with substantial caring needs. The Carer’s Allowance is set at £62.10 a week and the carer does not have to be related to, or live with, the person cared for. The carer must be 16 or over and spend at least 35 hours a week caring for them.
Please remember that Carer’s Allowance is taxable and it can also impact on other benefits a person claims.
War Pension Scheme is for people exposed to asbestos during military service, including the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force. Due to its fireproofing properties, asbestos was heavily used throughout the military and many former service men and women are now paying the price.
A person can claim the pension if they were injured or got an illness while serving in the armed forces. They will receive a tax-free lump sum payment between £1,200 and £570,000, depending on their needs and if the claim is successful.
Veterans UK can help anyone with questions about schemes, the process or appealing a decision.
This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits available to people who are struggling to cope with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. If you would like further information then get in contact with the National Asbestos Helpline for advice.