Mesothelioma benefits and financial help

Most people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can get financial help. There are 2 main ways of getting financial help:

  • Benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). People with mesothelioma may be entitled to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • Compensation from you or your spouse’s employer – this may be your current employer or a former one who was linked to your exposure to asbestos.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should find out more about getting both these types of financial help.

Benefits

People often think that benefits paid by the government are means-tested, and that whether you can get them depends on your savings and income. It is important to remember that although some benefits are means-tested, many are not. A benefits adviser or your solicitor will be able to tell you more about which benefits you can claim.

You can also get more information from our welfare rights advisers by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

Local asbestos support groups may also be able to offer you advice and information about benefits. You can get information about support groups from Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum UK or Mesothelioma UK.

Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance

If you are employed but unable to work because of illness or disability, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Your employer will pay SSP for up to 28 weeks of sickness. Before SSP ends, find out if you can get a benefit called Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA provides support to people under State Pension age who can do some work (permitted work).

Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

These benefits are for people who have difficulty moving around or looking after themselves. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is for people aged 16 to State Pension age. PIP has replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults.

Attendance Allowance (AA) is a benefit for people who are at or above State Pension age.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB)

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) is an important benefit for people with certain asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma.

It is payable if the mesothelioma may have been caused by exposure to asbestos dust at work. This includes people who have worked abroad for a UK company. You do not need to have worked with asbestos to get this benefit. You only need to have been exposed to asbestos dust at work. 

You cannot get this benefit if you were self-employed. You may still be able to get this benefit if you are retired.

You should always get advice from a solicitor about making a claim for IIDB. You will need to give information about where you were exposed to asbestos as well as how you were exposed. It is very important that the information on the benefit application form is filled in correctly. It may affect your claim for this benefit or other compensation claims if the form is not filled in correctly.

IIDB can be paid into your bank account every week, 4 weeks or 13 weeks.

People with mesothelioma are entitled to the maximum rate. If you are given this benefit, you may also be entitled to other benefits. You can get more information about these from a welfare rights adviser or specialist solicitor.

Local asbestos support groups may also be able to offer you advice and information about benefits. You can get information about support groups from:

Compensation from employers

Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma who has worked somewhere where they were exposed to asbestos in the past may be able to claim compensation from their employer. This includes people working in the armed forces who have been exposed to asbestos after 1987.

If you were not exposed to asbestos at work, you may also be able to claim. For example, you could claim if you are a spouse who was exposed from handling contaminated work clothes.

This type of compensation claim requires specialist legal knowledge and must be made through an experienced, specialist solicitor. There is more information below on how to find a specialist solicitor.

For a compensation claim to be successful, you have to show that your exposure happened because your employer at the time (or another person or organisation responsible) was:

  • careless (negligent) in not keeping up the standards required by law
  • not following specific safety regulations.     

For example, this might be if you were exposed to asbestos when your employer knew, or should have known, about the risks to you, even if you were unaware of them.

If a former employer has gone out of business, it may be possible to claim against the employer’s insurers. If they cannot be found, it may be possible to make a claim under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.

Is there a time limit to claim?

Court proceedings for a claim must be started within 3 years of the date you were first diagnosed with an injury due to asbestos. This means 3 years from the date of diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness, not 3 years since your exposure to the asbestos.

Family members of people who died from mesothelioma within three years of being diagnosed may still be able to make a claim. The 3-year period to make the claim begins from the date of death.

Sometimes this time limit can be extended. You can ask for advice from a specialist solicitor even if you think it may be too late to make a claim.

Mesothelioma compensation payments

You may be able to get a one-off, lump-sum payment if you were exposed to asbestos dust at work and have mesothelioma. If you have mesothelioma that was not caused through employment, you may still be able to get a payment. You may also be able to get a payment if you were exposed to asbestos while working abroad for a UK company.

You can apply for the lump sum through different schemes. But the payments are the same and the application is made on the same form. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will work out which scheme the payment will be made from. The 2 schemes are:

  • The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 (PWCA).
  • Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments 2008 scheme (DMPS). 

You should always get advice from a solicitor about making a claim for a lump sum payment. You will need to give information about where you were exposed to asbestos, as well as how you were exposed. It is very important that the information on the benefit application form is filled in correctly. Incorrect information may affect your claim for this benefit, or other compensation claims.

Is there a time limit to claim?

There are time limits for making a claim under either scheme. These are:

  • under the PWCA scheme, 1 year from the award of IIDB
  • under the DMPS, 1 year from diagnosis.

You should speak to a specialist solicitor straight away who can advise you about your claim.

Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS)

This scheme provides payments for people who were diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after 25th July 2012. The scheme is only used when someone with mesothelioma has not been able to claim compensation anywhere else.

It is only for people who were exposed to asbestos at work, and have both of the following:

  • They have a legal claim against their employer which has merit.
  • They have been unable to find the employer (because they have stopped trading), or the employer’s insurer. Or, the employer is unable to meet the claim because they have no assets. These must be the only reasons why they cannot successfully make a claim.

The scheme can also pay out to eligible relatives or dependants of a person who has died from mesothelioma.

Can I still claim if I have already claimed for other schemes?

You can still claim under this scheme even if you have already claimed under the 2008 scheme, or the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 (PWCA). If you already have a payment from one of these schemes, the amount will be taken away from any DMPS payment you get. Even if you have not been successful in claiming under other schemes, you may still be eligible for the DMPS scheme.

It is very important to get advice from a specialist solicitor before making this type of claim. To get compensation from a former employer (or their insurer), the claim must be fully investigated first. If this has not been done, the claim will be rejected. The information given to support the claim may affect a later claim against the former employer or their insurers.

For more information about the 2008 scheme and the DMPS, visit GOV.UK.

Help for people who were in the armed forces

If you were in the armed forces and you have mesothelioma because you came into contact with asbestos, you may be able to make a claim. The claim would be made with your local Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee. Call the Veterans UK helpline on 0808 1914 218 for more information.

You may also be able to make a civil compensation claim with the help of a specialist solicitor. This may be if your exposure to asbestos dust in the armed forces happened:

  • after 15th May 1987
  • before 15th May 1987, because of the fault of non-services organisations such as private contractors or their employees.

Costs of claiming compensation

In England and Wales

Making a personal injury compensation claim in England and Wales should not cost you any money. Any specialist solicitor should offer a free initial consultation, and to deal with your claim on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. They will also come to visit you at home, if needed. Make sure you discuss the options for funding with the solicitor, before any claim is started.

Tell your solicitor if you:

  • are a member of a trade union or a professional association
  • have legal expenses insurance cover.

Insurance

Your solicitor may take your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. They will arrange insurance to protect you against the risk of having to pay the defendant’s legal costs. The defendant is usually your former employer. Insurance should also cover the other expenses that have to be paid to make your claim, such as a fee to the medical expert for a report.

Payment of the insurance premium should be delayed until the case is finished. Ask your solicitor about this payment. If your case is successful, the insurance will be paid by the other party (the defendant). Most specialist solicitors offer arrangements where the insurance covers the cost of the premiums if the claim is unsuccessful. This means in that situation, there is no charge for the premium.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, people making a claim may be entitled to legal aid. But if insurance is available the premium will not be repaid, even if the claim is successful.

The entitlement to legal aid may be subject to a contribution. The amount will depend on a person’s financial situation.

Compensation for family members

Family members of people who have died from mesothelioma may be able to claim compensation for:

  • their relative’s pain and suffering
  • some financial losses suffered as a result of the illness.

This may not be possible if the person who died from mesothelioma had already made a claim which had been settled.

It is important to get legal advice from a specialist solicitor about how to make a claim.

Finding a specialist solicitor

When choosing a solicitor, it is important to make sure that they have experience dealing with both asbestos-related disease claims and mesothelioma

There are many ways you can find a specialist solicitor:

  • You can ask your specialist nurse or doctor if they have a list of specialist solicitors.
  • The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has a list of accredited specialist lawyers.
  • You can ask your local asbestos support group, as they often work closely with a panel of local specialist solicitors. You can get details of local support groups from Mesothelioma UK.

It is important to know that advertisements and websites offering legal advice may be misleading. Before choosing a solicitor, you may want to ask them some questions. Do not be afraid to ask them to explain anything that you have not understood, or to ask for more information.

Questions to ask a solicitor

Below are some important questions you can ask a solicitor, to make sure they are suitable for your situation.

  • Is the solicitor a Fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)?
  • Does the solicitor specialise in mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease cases?
  • How many asbestos cases has the solicitor handled in the past 3 years?
  • How many of these have been dealt with at a court hearing?
  • Will the solicitor provide you with a free initial consultation? Will they visit you at home, if necessary?
  • Will the solicitor provide you with a free summary of what will be involved in making your claim?
  • Will they work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis?
  • Will the solicitor obtain an insurance policy to cover legal fees?
  • Will the solicitor take a percentage of your compensation?
  • Will you be expected to pay expenses, such as medical report costs and court fees, in advance?
  • How will you be kept informed of what is happening with your claim?
  • How long will the claims process take?
  • How soon does the solicitor expect to start a court action?

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our mesothelioma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Woolhouse I et al. British Thoracic Society Guideline for the investigation and management of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Thorax. 2018.

    Thomas A et al. Mesothelioma. BMJ Best Practice. 2019.

    Baas P et al. Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.  Annals of Oncology. 26 (Supplement 5): v31–v39. 2015. Available from: www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26223247

    Kusamara S et al. Peritoneal mesothelioma: PSOGI/EURACAN clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. European Journal of Surgical Oncology. March 2020.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr David Gilligan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.