Disappointment has been expressed following the news that insurance industry funding of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS), introduced in July, is to be set at a lower rate by the Ministry of Justice for the next 12 months.

Asbestos victim groups and asbestosis lawyers have welcomed the long-awaited announcement on December 8th that mesothelioma sufferers would be granted exemption from paying the 25 per cent legal costs in a successful mesothelioma claim. At the same time, dismay and disquiet has been voiced over the government’s stated support for victims of industrial diseases, such as mesothelioma as the details of the reduced insurer’s funding levy became known.

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) was brought in to help around 3,500 mesothelioma sufferers who every year are unable to trace their original employer or insurer. As a “fund of last resort”, a proposed 3 per cent levy on employer’s liability insurance providers had been finally agreed between insurers and government MPs.

“Lack of genuine government support”

Due to an apparent lower than expected take up of the scheme in the first six months, the government has now reduced the levy to be set for the coming year to 2.2 per cent, which is calculated will save the insurers £11.6 million. The lack of any further explanation by Justice Ministry on December 8th has prompted the response that there had been a “missed opportunity” to raise the levy. The government’s action has been viewed by some mesothelioma and asbestos victim groups as revealing a lack of genuine support for mesothelioma victims.

When the Mesothelioma Bill was agreed at the parliamentary third reading at the start of 2014, considerable disappointment and concern was raised over the limitations of actual payment amounts, restrictions to eligibility, and the exclusion of an insurer’s levy to fund future mesothelioma research.

A mesothelioma compensation amount of only 75 per cent had been agreed to be paid and an attempt increase the payment to 80 per cent was defeated. In addition, the scheme only allows victims who were diagnosed with mesothelioma after 25th July 2012 to be eligible to apply and excludes all other victims diagnosed with asbestosis disease or pleural plaques.

Many expressed the view that a “done deal” had been struck by the government to appease the insurance industry in order to hasten the Bill into law and the setting up of DMPS six months later.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) also considered that the provision of £350 million for DMPS would be insufficient, warning that as confirmed mesothelioma cases continue, the real amount needed for compensation would be at least £11 billion. BLF reiterates the need for research funding as the real answer to reducing suffering for mesothelioma patients.

Less in compensation

Criticism of DMPS continues even though the scheme has been generally supported by asbestos victims groups and legal firms, alike. However, it has been pointed out that not only are other asbestos related conditions not covered by the scheme but also mesothelioma sufferers actually receive less in compensation than they would be awarded if they had been successful in taking their claim to court.

The legacy of Britain’s industrial past, which exposed countless numbers of men and women at work and at home to the life threatening health risks of exposure to asbestos cannot be underestimated or downplayed. There continues to be many victims of asbestos-related disease who are yet to be properly provided with the means to access full care and support for the remaining years of their life.

Since the initial asbestos ban in the mid 1980s, the number of mesothelioma fatalities has steadily risen in the UK with a four-fold increase just in the last thirty years, according to the Office of National Statistics. Around 4,700 asbestos disease related deaths are still being recorded every year ( Health and Safety Executive).