Ten Years of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment scheme – is it time for change to help more asbestos victims?

Corries have been users of the 2014 scheme brought in to help asbestos victims. However, after ten years we question whether the government and insurance industry could do more to help asbestos cancer victims . Read here about our campaign to improve justice for diffuse mesothelioma victims.

Corries Director/Solicitor Howard Bonnett is campaigning for a better future for asbestos victims.

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS)- what is it?

Importantly in March 2014 we finally welcomed the arrival of the long-awaited Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS). For those affected by this terrible asbestos disease the scheme heralded a potential life adjusting change to help them and their families.

The schedule is now approaching its 10-year anniversary. I have looked at the scheme and want to see how it can help even more people in the future.

DMPS- what is it and why is it needed?

Millions of people have been exposed to asbestos at home or at work or in public places. Anyone born before 1970 is likely to have traces of asbestos in their lungs. For the vast majority of people exposed to asbestos they shall live out their lives without any asbestos disease.

For the unfortunate few ( mesothelioma broadly affects 2600 each year) then this fatal condition marks a potentially devastating pathway to death.

We are supposedly past the peak of asbestos related mesothelioma deaths with a steady decline predicted by epidemiologists. However, there is expected to be a longtail of victims expected to 2040 and possibly beyond. Insurance information for former companies is spotty at best (ELTO figures show traced insurers in less than 25% of cases). Sadly, there has been a gap for those with the disease and no company to pay the claim.

Claims must be lodged within three years of diagnosis or death. The scheme requires a full statement of exposure to asbestos and H M Revenue record. Proof of the diagnosis and steps taken to find a paymaster must be provided. The claim can be made by the victim or his family in life or after death. The same standard of proving the claim applies as if it was a common law claim made against an insurer.

Diffuse Mesothelioma – who pays?

The scheme is funded by a levy put on all Employers’ liability premium. This can be up to 3% and collected each year.

In broad terms the levy has been kept constant and at lower levels than originally predicted in 2014. The numbers of victims coming forward has broadly been steadily declining. Little is ever done to advertise the scheme. Corries are the only firm who try and raise attention to this scheme. We believe every mesothelioma victim should be signposted to it.

Here is an older article where we flagged up this issue https://www.corries.co.uk/corries-solicitors-fighting-to-raise-awareness-of-unknown-asbestos-scheme/

DMPS Facts & Figures

So how much has the scheme actually helped?

In figures for the latest year 2022-2023 the breakdown of sums to April 2023 confirmed payments made. This totals 1,914 victims over the nine years to date with just over £280 million paid out to them. The average payment made to a claimant in 2022/23 was £142,000. The pandemic was expected to skew figures for a few years due to delays in diagnosis. The additional deaths of person’s with mesothelioma due to Covid 19 has played a part.

Over the years, many more claims have been made but failed. Rejections of claims rates run at up to 29% of the claims lodged. This means many have fallen short of getting anything at all in this last chance saloon for the victims of this awful disease.

In this latest year some 330 applications were made to the scheme. This represents about one in six mesothelioma victims. Of these only 71% were successful and 25% failed and 4% were withdrawn. Sadly, this is showing no great improvement on year-by-year figures.

The fact that only seven in ten of the victims of this most awful condition get paid is a poor reflection on the intentions of the scheme. This failure rate has been broadly at that level over the years. typically with other schemes recovery rates improve as people earn how to work within a system. Obviously this is not happening with this scheme.

Even when reviews of decisions were submitted the initial decision was upheld in nine out of twelve cases. Obviously this shows that the system is not compensating those who fall outside the strict parameters of the scheme.

The diffuse mesothelioma scheme is ten years old – is election year a time to make it better?

Golden Years and changing exposures

Those of us in practice have for many years brought cases for the known cohorts of employments. Typically these include lagging, shipbuilders and repairers, the construction industries and other allied trades. A fast-track system set up by Senior Master Whitaker in the Royal Courts of Justice has been a beacon for those with claims. Many have secured compensation more quickly than through traditional High Court routes. It’s success led to several similar courts set up elsewhere. In a speech by Master Roger Eastman at the APIL asbestos conference in October 2023 he noted many of the people in those typical asbestos laden professions had died. The Masters are seeing a wider mixed cohort of people who are making claims through the Royal Courts of Justice.

This is reflected in the DMPS rejection figures. Without a doubt it paints a gloomy future for these desperate asbestos cancer victims.

The Future

The government announced on 31st January 2024 that the levy for the year 2023/24 will be £27.3 million. This payment from the insurance industry has been between the £30-40 million area at its peak. It has shown steady decline from 2018/19 onwards. This year’s temporary increase from the last few years is probably short lived. It broadly reflects the skewed effect of the pandemic.

It is difficult to foresee anything other than a levy decline as the numbers of mesothelioma victims decreases.

DMPS – So…what can we do?

The DMPS has worked as well as it can within its framework and rules as set out above. The insistence of holding the cases to  the same standard as a common law claim is particularly hard. This is harder still where no paymaster exists. Experienced solicitor help is vital.

However, a scheme which has plenty of reserve resulting in less victims being paid out than was originally planned in 2014 could, by a revisit of it’s structure, be extended in several ways:-

  1.  A fast-track system for female victims of diffuse mesothelioma to reflect that many will not have atypical workers exposure at the levels of asbestos which would normally be found to be in breach of regulations:-
  2. To pay family members claims unchallenged where exposure has occurred from an asbestos laden family member;
  3. To extend the criteria for other non-typical exposed victims such as office-based workers or those with lower level exposure such as those in the education professions.
  4. An improved and more powerful appeal process to enable more victims to get a payment under the scheme.

A situation where the DMPS met 100% of all diffuse mesothelioma victims is a genuine and achievable aim. This could be done with a gradually diminishing number of victims and scope for a more generous approach. This would not need a huge investment from the insurance industry. No great change to the levy is needed over that which has been paid since the inception of the DMPS.

With a general election this year, many candidates from the parties might have other promises to make. However, I am sure that APIL and other interested parties would be agreeable to putting some heft into a change. This would help those in the worst of situations. I invite any potential new politician to carefully consider this article. Let us together see if change can be made to the scheme.

Corries are leading asbestos claims solicitors. if you have been affected by mesothelioma in the last three years then call us FREE on 0800 083 7839.