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Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to a number of serious diseases. Compensation may be available under schemes administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). People suffering from certain conditions may also be able to pursue a civil claim for damages against one or more employers responsible for exposing them to asbestos negligently and/or in breach of a statutory duty.

The main scheme in the UK which pays weekly benefits to people who contracted an industrial disease in the course of their employment is the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) scheme. The list of “Prescribed Diseases” for IIDB includes asbestos-related conditions.

There are currently three schemes that provide lump-sum payments to those with asbestos-related diseases who are eligible.

A DWP-administered scheme set up under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 provides lump-sum payments for people suffering from certain asbestos-related conditions (or their dependants, if they have died), where they are unable to claim damages because the employer has gone out of business.

Since October 2008 the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments scheme has provided up-front lump-sum payments to anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma, in recognition of the difficulties people face obtaining compensation from other sources, and the fact that people usually die within months of diagnosis. It covers those previously not eligible for help, such as the self-employed, those exposed to asbestos in the environment and to family members exposed via workers’ clothing. Payments can be made to dependants, where the person has died. This scheme operates alongside that established under the 1979 Act, for those unable to benefit from it. It is funded by a “compensation recovery” mechanism, so that payments made are recovered from any subsequent successful civil compensation claim.

From 2014, the new “Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme” (DMPS) can make payments to people with diffuse mesothelioma who were exposed to asbestos either negligently or in breach of statutory duty by their employers, and who are unable to bring a claim for damages against the employer or that employer’s Employers’ Liability (EL) insurer. This is separate from the scheme set up in 2008, which will continue to operate. The new scheme is to be funded by a levy on insurance companies and makes payments to people first diagnosed on or after 25 July 2012. Like the 2008 scheme, payments can be made to dependants, where the person has died.

Further information on the dangers from asbestos and the response of governments can be found in Library standard note SN/SC/5931, Asbestos: damage, control and policy. Information on civil compensation can be found in standard note SN/HA/4450, Mesothelioma: civil court claims. A separate standard note, Pleural Plaques – The Government’s Response (SN/HA/5361), is also available.

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