Compensation claims for asbestos in schools

Asbestos roof on a school building

Despite being completely banned since 1999, asbestos is still found in the structure of around 75% of UK schools. Because asbestos poses a significant hazard to health when disturbed, government policy has been to keep asbestos containing material (ACM) in situ, managing the risks rather than removing them.

Members of the Asbestos Consultants Association (ATCA), as well as MPs, teaching unions, school support staff and others, have serious concerns that asbestos management in many schools is not adequate. In some cases, the ATCA argue, this management is non-existent.

Evidence suggests that dangerous asbestos fibres can be released not only through poor management, but also through wear and tear. Such wear and tear may be inevitable in schools.

Why is asbestos so prevalent in schools?

Asbestos and ACMs were used extensively from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Many of today's schools were built or refurbished during this period under CLASP (Consortium of Local Authorities Special Program) a systematic approach to building which used standard designs, specifications and materials, including asbestos.

A school does not need to have been built under the CLASP scheme to be affected. Asbestos can also still be found in schools built after 1980, before it was banned.

Why is asbestos so dangerous?

Material containing asbestos can release fibres into the air which, if inhaled, can damage the lungs and lead to serious diseases, such as asbestosis and Mesothelioma. Often symptoms do not appear until an average 20-30 years after exposure.

The three most common types of asbestos fibres are chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite. According to a report by The Asbestos in Schools Group (2011), all schools contained Chrysotile. But there was also widespread use of amosite and crocidolite, which are much more dangerous 100 and 500 times respectively.

See also:

Mesothelioma compensation claims

What are the particular risks in schools?

In addition to ACMs being prevalent in schools, which is in itself a risk, the management of them by schools is considered by the ATCA to often be insufficient.

Some schools are in poor condition of upkeep generally, often because they are beyond their design life and there are inadequate funds to properly maintain the buildings.

Every time structural materials containing asbestos are hit, kicked, or otherwise stressed, fibres may be released. This can even be the case when the ACM is sealed by painting over. Normal classroom activities can also release fibres at significantly greater levels than background levels in other-use buildings. Over prolonged periods of exposure, the higher level can significantly increase the level of risk.

What assurances can be sought?

Children and school staff are potentially at risk, but the risk can be significantly reduced if properly managed.

For peace of mind, parents can seek information on whether the school their child attends has ACMs. If the school was built before 2000 they can ask the Local Education Authority for a copy of the school's Asbestos Management Plan and Survey. Parents can also:

  • Ask teachers and asbestos managers what sealing is in place
  • If a CLASP school, ask if HSW/SCAPE guidance has been followed
  • Find out if air tests were undertaken in the school
  • Ask if all teachers know where the asbestos is
  • Ask the school how they manage it
  • Physically check for any signs of danger themselves

The Department for Education (DfE) recently reviewed its policies on asbestos management in schools, publishing their findings in March 2015. The review outlines how the government will give more support to people responsible for managing asbestos in schools.

No win, no fee asbestos disease compensation claims

With no win, no fee, you can claim asbestos disease compensation without financial risk. If your claim isn't successful, you pay nothing. If you win, you only pay a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation.

Find out more about how no win, no fee claims work

How did your injury happen?

The claims process will vary depending on the circumstances of your asbestos exposure. Click the icons below to learn more:

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Injury FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more:

Claiming on behalf of another person.

How long do I have to make an injury claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the injury to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your injury claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for an injury after 3 years?

Possibly. The general rule for adults is that a claim must be started within three years.

However, the three-year countdown starts on the day you learned of your injury or illness. This will usually be the date of the accident, but could be the date your doctor gave you a diagnosis.

If you were injured as a child, you do have up until your 21st birthday to make a claim.

There other circumstances that can also impact the limitation date. Call us now on 0800 376 1001 to find out if you are still able to claim injury compensation.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether an injury claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Will I need to go into a solicitor's office?

When making an asbestos disease claim, you won't need to attend your solicitor's office at any stage.

You can begin with a free phone consultation with a legally-trained advisor. Your advisor will set out your options for compensation, and there is no obligation to proceed.

When you decide to go ahead, the next step is to discuss your case with a personal injury solicitor. Your solicitor will handle every stage of your claim and will be there to answer any questions you have.

I need the money now - what are my options?

If you are unable to work and have bills to pay, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

An interim payment is an advance on your compensation payment. Any amount you receive in interim payments would be deducted from your final compensation payment.

Read more:

How can I claim an interim compensation payment?

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher