Insurers save at the expense of victims
The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme was set up in 2014 to compensate those suffering from mesothelioma who were negligently exposed to asbestos at work but could not trace their ex-employers or their insurers and so were unable to seek compensation.
When this scheme was implemented by the ABI and Government the awards were set at a level of 80% of the average compensation in civil mesothelioma claims. The figures used to calculate that average were never released. The Government refused to accept arguments that the compensation award should be the actual value of the claim (like the RTA scheme for uninsured/untraced drivers) or at least 100% of the “average”.
At the time the Mesothelioma Bill was passed the Government made a commitment in Parliament to set a levy at 3% of gross working premium on insurers to fund the scheme. In fact due to fewer applicants than were envisaged the insurers were able to enjoy only a 2.2% levy last year.
On 12th January 2016, the new levy was announced in Parliament by the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson and set at 1.7%. This was due to the fact that the underpayment of nearly £8 million from the previous year would be carried over so as to be able to pass this saving on to the insurers in the form of this reduced levy.
No suggestion was made that the level of compensation for those dying of mesothelioma or their families should be raised to 100% of the actual value of the claim, used to make up the shortfall on payments already made or even that this underspend could be used to help fund mesothelioma research.
Based upon the latest figures from the HSE it is projected that 53,000 people in the UK will die of mesothelioma in the next 25 years. In view of the long latency of this disease many of their employers and insurers will be untraced. The money committed could have been used to ensure full compensation to those victims or used to help fund the research into this disease. According to the National Cancer Research Institute, only £820,000 was available in 2014 for mesothelioma research.
The recent announcement that the Government would allocate £5 million to a National Mesothelioma Centre of Excellence was welcomed but could have been matched by the £7.8 million saving to the insurance industry from the monies that they had already said they could afford to pay and the Government said they were committed to pay to fund the DMPS.