A helping hand for victims of killer disease

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A NEW support service has opened in Sunderland to help former shipyard workers suffering from asbestos-related diseases.

The Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group has been set up by the Northern TUC to provide free support and advice to victims and their families in Sunderland and the surrounding area.

The new service will help victims get better advice on issues including welfare benefits, as well as offering them access to free specialist legal advice.

Wearside’s industrial heritage makes it a blackspot for asbestos-related conditions, with hundreds of people exposed to the dust while working in the Wear’s shipyards or at Washington Chemical Company, which produced industrial asbestos.

The chemical was also commonly used as a building material during the 1960s and many more people may have been exposed to asbestos present in office buildings, schools and factories.

Exposure to the dust can lead to the lethal cancer mesothelioma and chronic lung conditions like asbestosis and pleural thickening.

Often those diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition are entitled to claim benefits.

The Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group has trained advisors who provide free advice on claiming entitlements.

Maggie Fitzsimons, who works alongside colleague Pat McKeown at the group explained: “Being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease or condition can be a shock and it can have a huge impact on the sufferers and their relatives.

“Often people do not know where to turn and the benefits system can seem complicated. We can cut through the jargon and paperwork to help sufferers and their families.”

The Northern Region Asbestos Support and Campaign Group holds an outreach service at the GMB office on Frederick Street, Sunderland on the first Wednesday of every month and can be contacted on 200 7198.