Looking back over the last thirty years of DSS asbestos benefit levels, classified under industrial disabilities, makes valuable, if not altogether, happy reading. It certainly gives reason enough for individual sufferers to pursue a separate asbestos compensation claim through a legal process.

Available figures after 1980, supplied by the DSS, show a consistent increase in disability benefit entitlements for total prescribed asbestos-related diseases through the 1990s, passing well over 1,250 known cases. But often, disablement categories were incorrectly classified, affecting both statistics and entitlement.

For most industrial disabilities, benefit is only paid if disablement is assessed at 14% or more for claims lodged after 1 October 1986. For pneumoconiosis, including asbestosis and diffuse mesothelioma, benefits are still paid if disability is assessed below 14%.

For mesothelioma, once it has been agreed that the victim did work in the right industry or, for lung cancer, has another prescribed asbestos illness, they are usually assessed as being very disabled, almost always terminally ill. For mesothelioma, the average assessment is around 98% and for asbestos lung cancer 83%.

Asbestosis does not, however, attract the higher levels of benefit. The 1993 asbestosis figures show 29% were assessed as 10% disabled or less, 66% fell in the mid-range between 20-70% disabled, and only 4% were assessed in the top three percentage bands over 80%.

Bilateral diffuse pleural thickening is compensated if disability is assessed at 14% or more. Claims are rejected if damage is on one side only or if it is not considered to be diffuse, regardless of how disabled a person might be. Seeking asbestos advice is always essential under any circumstances.

In a traditional dockyard and manufacturing area with a long history of working with asbestos, Clydeside Action on Asbestos found that although 65% of their members had pleural thickening and 47% bilateral pleural thickening, only 9% were successful in satisfying the criteria for bilateral diffuse pleural thickening.

Whilst in 1995-96 benefit levels were low – up to less than £100.00 per week for total disability – 62% of victims diagnosed with bilateral diffuse pleural thickening were assessed as being disabled by less than 14%, and therefore, did not receive any benefit whatsoever.

Reading the above figures, seeking effective and legitimate financial aid by making an asbestos or mesothelioma compensation claim through the alternative legal route of engaging the services of an asbestosis lawyer would appear to be clearly vindicated.