Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 — Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Question put and agreed to. Resolved:

That the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 be approved. — [Ms Ní Chuilín (The Minister for Communities).]

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I beg to move

That the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 be approved.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Business Committee has agreed that there should be no time limit on the debate.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The regulations are part of the annual uprating package, and they increase the compensation payable in the scheme under the Mesothelioma, etc., Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. Unlike the main benefit uprating order, there is no explicit requirement to review the level of payments under this scheme each year. However, the regulations have increased the amounts payable under the scheme in line with the rate of inflation. The amounts payable under the scheme have been increased for 2020-21 by 1·7%, which mirrors the percentage increase of industrial injuries benefits and in the main uprating order.

Under the scheme, those who have been exposed to asbestos can claim a lump sum payment if they are not entitled to a payment under the Pneumoconiosis, etc., (Workers' Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1979, known as the 1979 scheme, and who do not otherwise have a civil claim. The scheme provides financial help to persons diagnosed with diffuse mesothelioma or, if the person has died, to their dependants within a matter of

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of diagnosis and without the need to establish an occupational link or, indeed, any causative link. Therefore, provided that they have not already received a compensation payment from another source, people who suffer from this terrible disease are eligible for a payment, regardless of whether they were employees, self-employed, or, indeed, have never worked, as was the case with many family members who contracted the disease through cleaning asbestos-covered clothes.

For 2020-21, the amount payable, for example, to a person aged 37 or under at the time of diagnosis has increased from £92,259 to £93,827, the same maximum that can be paid under the 1979 scheme.

The regulations are to ensure that the compensation provided under the scheme maintains its value relative to inflation. I am sure that all Members will warmly welcome the provisions.

Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP

The Committee considered the regulations at its meeting of the 6 April. The Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 enable lump sum compensation payments to be made to people who have diffuse mesothelioma or to their dependants where sufferers did not claim in their lifetime. Payments are made without the need to prove negligent exposure to asbestos or that the exposure occurred during employment. The Act brings some financial assistance to sufferers at a time when many adjustments must be made to daily living arrangements as a result of the illness.

Unfortunately, loved ones will be lost to this cruel condition. Whilst nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, the Act ensures that dependants receive a lump sum payment to alleviate some of the financial burden associated with their loss. I welcome the regulations, as they will increase the amounts payable under the Act by 1·7%. That will ensure that payments remain in line with industrial injuries benefits.

The Committee recommends that the regulations be approved.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Chair and members of the Committee for the positive way in which they have dealt with the regulations. I appreciate the full support of the Assembly.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved:

That the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 be approved.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Business Committee has arranged to meet at 1.00 pm today. I propose, therefore, by leave of the Assembly, to suspend the sitting until 2.00 pm. The first item of business when we return will be Question Time.

The sitting was suspended at 12.54 pm.

On resuming —