Plans to speed up compensation claims for those affected by a deadly lung disease have been hailed as "fantastic news". 

The Government is planning to make dramatic changes to provide faster financial support to people diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen and is associated almost exclusively with asbestos. Hartlepool has a high number of mesothelioma cases due to its shipping heritage.

Hartlepool woman Barbara Kinnell, 63, founded an asbestos support group after her husband, Geoff, died from mesothelioma seven years ago.

She told the Mail: "This is fantastic news and will help people get compensation much quicker.

"It took my husband's claim five years to come through, but it's not just about money, it's about justice."

Mesothelioma is the most common cause of work-related death. It is estimated that one out of every 100 men born between 1940 and 1950 will die from the disease.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright welcomed the Government proposals that were announced by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton.

Mr Wright told the Mail: "Mesothelioma is a dreadful disease that devastates the lives of people in Hartlepool. Currently too many people die before they get compensation, or they find they aren't eligible because they contracted the disease from living near a factory or being exposed to a relative who worked there, rather than working at the factory themselves.

"That is an awful injustice, so I welcome the Government's commitment to get legislation through Parliament so everyone with mesothelioma can claim, irrespective of their employment history."

The time between diagnoses and death is generally around nine months. But compensation claims are known to take years to come through, leaving bereaved relatives to have the added burden of fighting for financial support.
But new government legislation would mean once diagnosed, every sufferer would receive a substantial payment within six weeks of making a claim.

The new proposals would provide financial support to people who were previously not eligible, such as those exposed to asbestos by a relative or because of where they live, the self-employed and people who cannot trace their exposure to asbestos.

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