Miners to get compensation back

Ex-miners who received compensation from the government for illness caused by working in the mines are set to be paid back millions of pounds from solicitors who took a cut from their payments.

Thousands of ex-pit workers are in line for extra payouts as part of a new scheme to confront lawyers who ripped off claimants by charging them for fees covered by the government. The new scheme is based on a trial in Rother Valley, South Yorkshire which has already revealed more than 300 cases of alleged swindling totally more than £200,000.

Ministers have now backed the national roll-out of the Rother Valley pilot scheme. Hundreds of miners have already received settlements with help from the Legal Complaints Service (LCS), but when the scheme goes national tens of thousands more claims are expected to be made. It has estimated that 10% of the 750,000 beneficiaries of the Coal Health Compensation Scheme have been improperly charged by their legal representation.

The LCS now plans to inform up to 500,000 former colliery workers of the problem of double-charging and to alert them that they may have had money wrongly taken from their compensation . They urge those with suspicions to contact their solicitor requesting the money back. The largest payout so far was £3,500 in South Yorkshire; the average payout has been £450.

One of the key figures in the Rother Valley scheme, Labour MP Kevin Barron, said: “It’s been a slow process, but this has been a major breakthrough and justice is now being done. There are many thousands more people out there who will now get the opportunity to have their case investigated and receive money back.”

According to those involved in the project, many lawyers who have unscrupulously taken claimants money, have realised that they have been found-out and are volunteering the cash on request. Cases in which the solicitor refuses to return any monies will be arbitrated by the LCS.

£3.4 billion has been paid out to over 750,000 former miners by the Coal Health Compensation Scheme for suffering of diseases such as pneumoconiosis and vibration white finger. In spite of this there has been a lot of anger for several years that many claimants have been denied their full payouts because of double charging from solicitors.

Within the Rother Valley pilot, however, ex-miners have been personally invited, in writing, to scrutinize their payouts and solicitors with the help of Mr Barron MP and the LCS.

Ian Lavery, chairman of the National Union of Mineworkers, said solicitors who had double-charged miners had put future compensation schemes in jeopardy.

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