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Asbestos Support Group Challenge - week 3

Welcome to Week Three of the #LDARoundTheUK Asbestos Support Group Challenge.

Posted on 15 June 2020

This week we will be running, cycling and walking our way across the South Yorkshire and the East and West Midlands, stopping off to visit asbestos support groups based in Sheffield, Chesterfield and Birmingham, before heading for the Welsh border.   

I’m a solicitor in the @LD_Asbestos team at Leigh Day.  I specialise in acting for clients with asbestos related diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural thickening and asbestosis.  I’ve seen first-hand how important the assistance provided by support groups is to my clients and their families, so it is a pleasure to be championing their work and raising funds for them along the way.  

Day 18 – West Midlands

Over the last couple of days, thanks to the asbestos team’s collective foot and pedal power, we’ve left Chesterfield and travelled roughly 60 miles south west.  We’ve passed through Derby, managed to resist the temptations of Burton-on-Trent’s breweries, and arrived in Birmingham - the Workshop of the World.

Birmingham’s unique position at the centre of the UK’s canal system allowed the city to develop trade links around the globe and by the 18th century it was the greatest industrial city in the world. The arrival of the railways in Victorian Britain bolstered Birmingham’s growth and prosperity; a city of a thousand trades, Birmingham’s factories and workshops have historically manufactured everything from jewellery to Jaguars.     

The heat and fire-resistant qualities of asbestos meant it was widely used in the factories and manufacturing plants throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands.  Although the importance of the manufacturing industry in the region started to decline in the 1970s, the devastating impact of asbestos exposure is still in evidence in the large number of asbestos-related diseases reported in the people who lived and worked there.

Leigh Day’s asbestos team has acted for many clients in the West Midlands.  Kevin Johnson, partner at Leigh Day, secured compensation for a former electrical engineering technician who was exposed to asbestos while working for AEI in Rugby.  Despite an initial denial of liability, Kevin negotiated a settlement that included payment of future medical treatment costs.

Leigh Day is privileged to be working with Asbestos Support Central England who help those suffering from asbestos related diseases and campaign for measures to protect current workers and communities.  Based in central Birmingham, the group covers a huge area stretching from Wolverhampton to Coventry and everything in between.  The group make home visits and provide advice and assistance in applying for state benefits.  
Your guide for next week will be solicitor Heetasha Khosla.  Follow the Leigh Day asbestos team to keep up with the team as we head over the Welsh border, make our way along the south coast of England, and on to the home straight and our final destination in London.  

Day 16 - Chesterfield

Day 16 of the #LDARoundTheUK asbestos support group challenge, and the asbestos team have stopped off for a well-earned break in the town of Chesterfield, home to the infamous Crooked Spire, said to have twisted when unseasoned wood was used during its construction in 1360.  We’re meeting up with the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (@DAST24) then popping to Leigh Day’s office where Helen Ashton, specialist asbestos solicitor and partner at Leigh Day, will hopefully be waiting outside with some refreshments for us all. 

Leigh Day has acted for many clients based in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and other counties lying in the East Midlands, a sad indication of the area’s industrial heritage.  Notable employers in the region that exposed their employees to asbestos in the past include: The Midlands Railway Locomotive Works in Derby (later nationalised into British Rail), International Combustion Ltd which made industrial boilers, Rolls Royce Industrial Power (India) Ltd, British Celanese, Leys Malleable Castings (the largest malleable iron foundry in Europe specialising in casting motor cars), not to mention numerous insulation companies such as Darlington Insulation, Deborah Services Ltd, Cape Contracts Ltd all of which employed local men to lag plant and pipework at the power stations being constructed in the 1960’s.

Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (DAST) was established in 2002 in response to the number of people affected by asbestos related diseases in the area.  They provide much needed support and advice to those directly affected and their families.

DAST’s dedicated and experienced team aim to provide a holistic service to their users.  They assist in claims for government benefits, provide advice about how to seek compensation and run regular wellbeing lunches that allow their service users to share experiences and meet and ask questions of health care professionals.
Sadly, the wellbeing lunches have been suspended for the time being but, DAST’s regular support newsletters continue, as does their befriending scheme.  The Beacon Buddies scheme matches people in similar circumstances so they can support one another.  If you need to contact DAST you can email them at: mail@asbestossupport.co.uk

Along with providing support, DAST is also focused on raising awareness of the danger asbestos still poses.  In a project that started in 2015, DAST has successively projected the names of mesothelioma victims on Derby Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral and the Crooked Spire in Chesterfield, and in 2013 they launched the housing awareness project, aimed at educating people about where asbestos could be present in our homes.

Continue to follow us on Twitter as @LD_Asbestos make our way through the West Midlands to Birmingham and on toward the Welsh border.

Day 15 – Sheffield

At the half-way stage of this mammoth tour around the UK’s asbestos support groups, we have travelled 1,081 km and have arrived in Steel City.

Leigh Day has acted for many people exposed to asbestos in this region.  In 2019, Helen Ashton, a Partner at Leigh Day, successfully obtained compensation for the family of a gentleman who sadly passed away from asbestos related lung cancer after working as a riveter for Cravens, a notorious railway carriage manufacturer in Sheffield.  Although initially smoking was suggested as the cause of his lung cancer, Helen successfully argued at inquest that asbestos had contributed, and his death was linked to his former employment and asbestos exposure. Settlement of the civil claim followed very soon thereafter.  

Sheffield is home to SARAG - Yorkshire & Humberside Asbestos Victims Support Group.  SARAG opened its doors in 1995.  Initially assisting people in South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, it has since expanded to cover other parts of the Yorkshire and Humberside region from its office in Rotherham, and newly opened office in Leeds.  The group offers help, information, advice and support to people throughout the region affected by asbestos related diseases.  

While making our virtual tour of the UK, I caught up with Joe Wade, one of the founding members of SARAG.  Joe was kind enough to talk to me about how the group first got started:

“SARAG was formed out of a Sheffield occupational health project. GPs in the area started interviewing patients about their employment history and it became apparent lots of people in the area were suffering with lung diseases, a fair amount of which were asbestos related. This was to be expected given the industrial heritage of the area and we felt there was a need to create a separate organisation which was SARAG.”

Joe is no stranger to South Yorkshire’s industrial heritage; from 1954 to 1986, Joe trained and worked as an electrician at the River Don Steelworks where he encountered several asbestos containing materials throughout his career and has sadly seen former colleagues succumb to asbestos related diseases.  But Joe was keen to point out the lasting legacy of asbestos use in the area:

“Although historically the area is associated with heavy industrial engineering and steel manufacture, asbestos is still a current problem because council housing and public buildings, including schools, are still riddled with asbestos – we’ve still got a lot more to do”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in different ways and the lockdown has been particularly difficult for those shielding.  Although SARAG had to suspend their monthly coffee mornings, they have continued supporting people throughout the lockdown by telephone, email and letter. 

SARAG is a charitable organisation and relies on funding from donations, grants, their own and others fundraising events.  It has also been supported by trade unions over the years.  Securing funding is increasingly difficult and any donations however large or small are always welcome to enable SARAG to continue providing the very valuable support they give to asbestos victims in the Yorkshire, Humberside and North Notts areas.

If you would like to help SARAG carry on supporting asbestos victims in Yorkshire & Humberside, please donate here.



Catriona Ratcliffe
Asbestos and mesothelioma Industrial disease

Catriona Ratcliffe

Associate solicitor in the personal injury departments specialising in industrial disease claims