A £300m support scheme for people who develop mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos at work but are unable to claim compensation because they cannot trace a liable employer or insurer has been announced by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The majority of people who developed the cancer are able to claim compensation through their employers' liability insurance. However, more than 300 mesothelioma sufferers a year miss out because they cannot trace a liable employer or liability insurer.
The new scheme aims to support those sufferers and will be funded by a levy on current employers' liability insurers at an estimated cost of £25m-35m a year. It expects to help around 3,000 mesothelioma victims to receive around £300m in payments in the first 10 years.
Welfare minister Lord Freud said: 'We have worked tirelessly together with the insurance industry to agree this package of measures on behalf of those who face this terrible disease.
'The new scheme will mean that, for the first time, sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma, who cannot trace either a liable employer or employers' liability insurer, will have access to extra payments.'
While the scheme has to be introduced through law, the government and the Association of British Insurers have agreed that anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma from today will be eligible. Membership of the scheme will be compulsory for all employers' liability insurers.
All insurers will also be expected to join the Employers' Liability Tracing Office, which was set up in April 2011 by the ABI to serve as an electronic database of employers' liability insurance policies. This includes companies who have provided employers' liability insurance in the past, in a bid to ensure that where there is a liable insurer, they will pay the claim.
Otto Thoresen, the ABI's director general, said: 'Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive cancer and the insurance industry, working with government, is determined to do all it can to ensure that sufferers get the support they need as soon as possible. This package of measures will deliver help to claimants much faster, including to those who would otherwise go un-compensated.
'We appreciate the urgency of this disease, and while implementation depends on legislation being put in place, we hope that the scheme will be up and running and the first payments made by July 2014.'
Other measures announced today to speed up the process of getting support to all mesothelioma sufferers include developing an online portal for them to register claims and for all parties involved to exchange information in a secure electronic way.
There will also be changes to the Civil Procedure Rules to support the use of mesothelioma pre-action protocol to ensure that evidence is disclosed early.
The government will seek to improve the information it holds that is needed to support claims, such as standardised medical diagnosis and employment schedules from Revenue & Customs.