Asbestos Support Group Challenge - Week 5
Welcome to the last few days of the #LDARoundTheUK Asbestos Support Group Challenge. Almost time for the refreshments at the finish line!
Posted on 29 June 2020
This week we will be travelling along the old Roman Road of Watling Street in Kent and into London, where we reach the finish line at our offices in Farringdon.
Day 31 – The End
And that’s it, we are done! 2,333km completed in 30 days for #LDAroundtheUK.
I am Louisa Saville, a solicitor in the asbestos team. I represent clients who have been diagnosed with asbestos related diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. Every day I come into contact with families who have received help and guidance from the victim support groups we’re raising funds for by completing this challenge. It has been a privilege to do something to help at this difficult time.
On 1 June the Leigh Day asbestos team embarked on a challenge to cover 2,333km across the UK in aid of 15 asbestos victim support groups. The pandemic has meant that the usual diary of fundraising events for these charities has been wiped out and the donations they so heavily rely on to provide their vital services much depleted.
Throughout the month our 21-strong team have donned their trainers to raise much needed funds and awareness for these groups by running, walking, rowing and cycling from Dundee to London. En route we have virtually visited each of the support groups as well as passing many notorious asbestos hotspots, such as dockyards, asbestos factories and other industrial sites where exposure to asbestos occurred.
The heat-resistant properties of asbestos meant that for many years it was considered to be a wonder product and was widely used in construction and heavy industry. As a result of coming into contact with asbestos many people in the UK, and around the world, have developed life-changing, sometimes fatal, asbestos related diseases.
I see first-hand the devastating impact asbestos conditions can have on families. The past few months have been extremely difficult, especially for those who have been shielding, which includes those with asbestos conditions. Despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the support groups have continued to offer their services from a distance to those battling against an asbestos related disease. The knowledge and guidance provided by the support workers is welcomed by those who find themselves alone following a diagnosis.
The support groups campaign tirelessly for better treatment and increased awareness of asbestos diseases as well as looking to protect current workers and prevent the legacy of asbestos continuing into the future. Asbestos remains a danger today with its presence in public buildings and homes across the country.
Our target initially was to cover 77km per day. We were off to a speedy start and by the end of the first week were ahead of where we’d hoped to be. The pace slowed a little towards the middle of the month, but undeterred by the sweltering temperatures the team pulled together. There were some fantastic distances covered by all concerned putting us in a great position in the last couple of days. In the end it was Harminder Bains who got us across the finish line a whole 24 hours ahead of schedule!
To see more of what we’ve been doing follow us on Twitter.
A big thank you and well done to the whole team for helping us reach our goal this month. You all deserve a well-earned rest!
The donations will be equally divided between all 15 victim support groups. We hope that the funds raised will help them continue the invaluable services they provide to those diagnosed with asbestos diseases. It’s not too late to donate, if you’d like to help us support the charities please donate here.
Day 29 – Kent and London
I am Ewan Tant, an associate solicitor in the asbestos team at Leigh Day (@LD_Asbestos). I specialise in acting for clients with asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural thickening and asbestosis.
I see on a daily basis the importance of the assistance provided by support groups. My clients and their families speak so highly of the work done by support groups and the support workers. It is an absolute pleasure to be singing their praises and raising funds for them.
On this, the final stage of our tour, we are travelling through Surrey, Kent, Essex and Greater London to say a big hello to @LASAG_UK – London Asbestos Support Awareness Group.
LASAG was set up by The London Hazards Trust Centre and obtained independent charity status in 2017. The group offers help, information, advice and support to people throughout the region affected by asbestos related diseases. Three of LASAG’s support workers were previously cancer nurse specialists.
London and the South East of England have some of the highest rates in the UK of mesothelioma. Figures published in 2016 by the Office for National Statistics show that several boroughs in the region have especially high levels of mesothelioma compared to other parts of the UK.
Mesothelioma is a terrible legacy of our industrial past. London has been badly affected by asbestos diseases as a result of heavy industry in the area. Large amounts of raw asbestos fibre were discharged from ships coming into London Docks and many dockworkers have contracted asbestos diseases.
Asbestos insulation materials were manufactured at the now closed site of Cape Asbestos in Barking. Cape also operated factories around Uxbridge where asbestos sheets and other building materials were manufactured.
Kent is badly affected by mesothelioma. Large numbers of people from the region worked at Chatham Naval Dockyard. Asbestos was extensively used for insulation in ships because of its fire-resistant qualities. Many other workers have also been blighted by asbestos diseases such as workers at power stations, including the Isle of Grain, where asbestos was used to insulate pipework, boilers and other machinery.
Figures published by the Health and Safety Executive in 2014 show that Medway had the sixth highest rate of deaths from mesothelioma in the UK. Swale and Thanet were both particularly affected.
Government statistics published in 2016 show that Essex is also particularly badly affected by mesothelioma. Castle Point has more than twice the national average number of deaths due to mesothelioma. The area has the fourth highest national rate in England and Wales. Brentwood in Essex is also badly hit having the eighth highest rate in England and Wales.
Leigh Day has acted for many people exposed to asbestos in the London and the South East. Recently, Daniel Easton represented Mr Sharp following his diagnosis with mesothelioma. Mr Sharp’s father worked as a joiner at Chatham Dockyard in the 1960s and was heavily exposed to asbestos through his work. He drove home in his dusty overalls and Mr Sharp’s job, as a teenager, was to clean the dust out of his father's car. This resulted in him being exposed to significant amounts of asbestos.
Although Mr Sharp's exposure to asbestos happened when the knowledge about the risks of "family exposure” were only just beginning to be known, Daniel secured an admission of liability which was confirmed by the Court. We went on to agree a substantial settlement to the claim which also enabled Mr Sharp to pursue private medical treatment for immunotherapy for the rest of his life.
Harminder Bains represented an 86-year-old woman, Mrs Weobley, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during the course of her employment with British Uralite, making items such as chimney pots and drain pipes from asbestos sheets.
Mrs Weobley worked at British Uralite’s factory in Highham, Gravesend, from the age of 16 until 20. It was a big factory where men would saw big sheets of asbestos, and lay them on benches for her and other women to cut out patterns.
Shortly after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, Mrs Weobley contacted Marika Townsend of LASAG who recommended that she contact a specialist asbestos lawyer. Mrs Weobley contacted Harminder and asked her to investigate her case.
Harminder settled her case successfully for a substantial sum within a few months of instruction.
Harminder has personal experience of the cancer mesothelioma as her own father died from the disease having been negligently exposed to asbestos whilst working for the MOD in the naval dockyard in Chatham, Kent.
Other recent settlements for Harminder include for a woman who worked in the offices at the Fiat UK showroom in Great West Road, Brentford and for the widow of a man who was exposed to asbestos while working on the construction of a school in East Dulwich.
LASAG run meetings across four counties in the South East, including meetings in Canterbury, Surrey, Sevenoaks, Sheppey, Rainham, Bexley, Dagenham and London. My clients always express their gratitude that they are able to attend meetings close to their home and sing the praises of the support group workers. Please see below for photos of recent meetings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in different ways and the lockdown has been particularly difficult for those shielding. Although LASAG have had to suspend their mornings, they have continued supporting people throughout the lockdown with virtual (Zoom) support group meetings, as well as by telephone, email and letter.
LASAG organises their own fundraising events, including this wonderful event for Christmas 2019, where the Rock Choir sang for the group. However, securing that funding is increasingly difficult, so donations from individuals, asbestos victims and their families, and other organisations, allow the group to continue.
If you would like to help LASAG carry on supporting asbestos victims in London and the South East, please donate here.