Compensation boost for ex-miners

It has been announced that thousands of former miners who have a medical condition known as miner’s knee will now be able to claim compensation from the government.

Miner’s knee, medically known as osteoarthritis of the knee, is caused by years of repetitive work in cramped conditions. Symptoms of the disease include pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced mobility.

An application for a group litigation order was made at Leeds County Court in May 2006 by the mining union NACODS and they won the right to take their compensation case to the next stage of legal proceedings. At the time of the application Bleddyn Hancock, from NACODS south Wales said: “We can now proceed to have access to the British Coal documents that are in the possession of the Department of Trade and Industry. We hope to complete our investigation of these documents as quickly as possible, as we are very aware that many of these miners with severe knee injuries are elderly men and time is of the essence.”

The Department of Trade and Industry said there was no evidence that it was liable for the knee injuries.

In an announcement made today by the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, Kitty Ussher, during a visit to the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, said that osteoarthritis of the knee was to be added to the list of prescribed diseases. This means that sufferers of miner’s knee will now be able to apply for compensation , through the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB). The change is expected to come into force by the summer, enabling thousands to pursue compensation claims .

She said: “I’m very pleased that this help is now available to those miners who, through no fault of their own are afflicted with this condition. We estimate that thousands of former miners will now benefit from this aid.”

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said: “It is right that this help should be available to coal miners who are suffering from this painful condition following years of hard work. This disease has made life very difficult for a large number of retired miners and forced others to end their working life earlier than planned. I am pleased that we are now in a position that we will be able to offer them valuable financial assistance.”

The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council recommended to ministers that miners who suffer from the disease and who have worked underground for ten years or more should be eligible to claim compensation .

Mr Hancock said he was delighted with the announcement, but urged the government to act quickly and implement the scheme now. He said: “Many elderly miners suffer with crippling knee problems and they can’t wait two or three years for them to implement it.”

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