Sufferers from asbestos-related diseases who qualify for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) may be eligible for a lump sum payment under the Pneumoconiosis, etc. (Workers Compensation) Act 1979.
Mesothelioma sufferers may be eligible for a lump sum payment under the 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme if they are not eligible for a payment under the 1979 Act.
These lump sum payments are meant to provide at least some compensation for asbestos victims who cannot get civil compensation from a former employer. This is surely right.
However, there is an inconsistency in the schemes. If a surviving partner or dependent child must claim a payment after their loved one has died, they receive a substantially lower payment.
In 2019-20, a 77-year-old with mesothelioma will receive £14,334 if they claim themselves. But if they die before claiming, which can happen with a cancer that is both very aggressive and difficult to diagnose, their surviving partner or dependent child would receive just £7,949.
Many surviving partners, often women on modest wages or pensions, suffer financial hardship after the loss of their loved one. Their household income has fallen, but many of their outgoings remain the same. In this situation, they are further disadvantaged if they can only receive a much lower posthumous payment. There is a clear moral case for raising the level of posthumous payments.
Of the 3,830 payments made in 2018 only 260 were posthumous claims. We estimate that it would cost £1.5 million to equalise payments. Raising the level of posthumous payments is affordable.
In 2010, Government acknowledged there was no justification for differential payments, stating that the inequality in payments could put pressure on victims’ families at a time when they are most vulnerable. It is time the government acted.