A North East asbestos support group is warning people with pleural plaques to seek advice now or they risk missing out on compensation.

The Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group, set up by the Northern TUC, provides free support and advice to victims of asbestos related diseases and their families.

Since it opened in Wallsend it has advised more than 100 clients on many asbestos-related issues including welfare benefits and compensation.

Now the group is warning those diagnosed with pleural plaques, a type of scarring on the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos, and who lost out because of a House of Lords ruling in 2007, to act quickly to claim up to £5,000 from the government.

Deadline for the scheme is 31st July 2011

Last year the Ministry of Justice announced a scheme to make payments of up to £5,000 to pleural plaques sufferers who had brought but not resolved a legal claim for compensation prior to 17 October 2007.

The government created the scheme after the House of Lords ended the right to compensation for pleural plaques sufferers.

The deadline for applying to the scheme ends on July 31, 2011 and the Northern TUC asbestos support group is urging all those who believe they may have a claim to get advice now.

The Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group has already recovered £72,500 for a number of pleural plaques sufferers, completely free of charge compared to many local solicitors who are charging up to £300 for the same service.

Diagnosed with Pleural Plaques

Freda Simpson, 77, of Concord in Washington received her payment from the scheme just a few months after getting in touch with the group’s advisors.

Mrs Simpson was exposed to asbestos when she was just four by her elder sister who worked at the notorious Washington Chemical Company in Washington.

She was diagnosed with pleural plaques in 2000 and quickly instructed solicitors to pursue a claim but received no compensation due to the litigation battle in the courts.

Last year she approached the Northern TUC asbestos support group who helped her claim £5,000.

She said: “The advisers at the support group were very easy to speak to as well as knowledgeable and efficient. After waiting for 11 years for compensation I was surprised at how quickly they were able to help with my case.”

Still time to get in touch

Maggie Fitzsimons, who works alongside colleague Pat McKeown at the Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group said: “Claiming compensation can be daunting for people affected by asbestos disease. At the group we offer a free service which can help with welfare benefits and access to specialist legal advice. With the August 1 deadline fast approaching for the government pleural plaques scheme we want to let people who might be eligible to apply know that there is still time to get in touch.”

The Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group office is based at Wallsend People’s Centre. It also holds an outreach service at the GMB office on Frederick Street, Sunderland on the first Wednesday of every month and can be contacted on 0191 200 7198.

Already thousands of people with pleural plaques have received payments of up to £5,000 from the scheme. Thompsons Solicitors has helped recover around £2m in compensation for 500 people with pleural plaques in the North East at no charge. Some other firms in the region also have hundreds of cases.

Ian McFall from Thompsons Solicitors said: “It is important that anyone entitled to claim compensation for pleural plaques does so before the scheme deadline on July 31. They should either get in touch with the Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group on 0191 200 7198 for free independent help and advice or to contact the solicitors who were dealing with their claim prior to October 2007.”