CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a change in Government policy that will provide compensation payments to families of asbestos victims.

Next of kin will now receive £5,000 as as long as an application for compensation was submitted the death of the pleural plaques sufferer.

Ministers had refused to make posthumous payments and campaigners in the region - where the legacy of heavy industry such as ship building meant there were many sufferers - accused them of penny pinching.

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But the Government has now had a change of heart.

The TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group, based in Wallsend, was one of the groups that lobbied ministers to do right by asbestos victims and their families.

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan said: "It has taken some considerable time and much struggle for pleural plaques victims to persuade Government to introduce a compensation scheme for illnesses that have clearly been entirely as a result of their exposure to asbestos, entirely down to their employers' negligence.

"For the families of those victims to have been denied those compensation payments where the victim has died before the payment was issued was a clear and insulting injustice.

"For families in the North-East and Cumbria the news that the Government are now issuing these payments to the next of kin in these situations is very welcome.

"It is a terrific achievement for campaign organisations like the Northern TUC Asbestos Campaign Group, working with trade unions and trade union legal services, working on behalf of asbestos victims in the region."

However, the Government is still refusing to give compensation if a sufferer dies without making an application to the scheme.

The scheme will make payments if someone diagnosed as having pleural plaques - a scarring of the lungs caused by asbestos inhalation - submitted an application for compensation before October 17, 2007.

The House of Lords decided in 2007 that automatic pay outs should end.

Details of the scheme are available at www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/pleural-plaques-compensation-scheme.htm