A new organisation is being launched to provide support and advice to victims of asbestos and their families in the Northern Region.

The Northern Asbestos Support & Campaign Group will be launched on Worker’s Memorial Day on April 28, 2010.

Asbestos is the biggest single work-related cause of death in the UK. It kills thousands every year and wrecks the lives of many more. The North’s industrial past means the area has one of the highest rates of death from mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos related cancer.

Professional support to people affected by asbestos disease

The new group, operating under the auspices of Northern TUC will be the first of its kind aimed at delivering professional support to people affected by asbestos disease across the North East & Cumbria.

Its services will include a drop in centre, a telephone helpline, expert advice on benefit entitlements, home visits on request and support for family members at Coroner’s inquests.

It will be chaired by former Swan Hunter shipyard convenor Michael Blench from Wallsend.

He said: “As a former shipyard worker I have known many workmates die from asbestos diseases like mesothelioma. Many more have suffered from conditions like pleural thickening and pleural plaques.

“I am well aware of the devastating impact asbestos has had on families across the region. We hope by setting up the Northern Asbestos Support & Campaign Group we will be providing much needed help and advice to those affected by asbestos.

“By creating a group which will extend across the North East and Cumbria we aim to coordinate campaigning on asbestos issues. Through our links with trade unions, health professionals and expert legal firms we are determined to make a real impact on providing services to victims of asbestos and to find ways of making our workplaces and communities safer by enforcing safeguards to prevent asbestos exposure.”

Need for an organisation of this kind in the North East and Cumbria

Kevin Rowan, Regional Secretary of Northern TUC added: “For the first time practical support will be available to families affected by asbestos disease across the region delivered free of charge by a professional team. The group will work with other interested organisations to create a focus for campaigning on health and safety and social justice issues to deal with the legacy of asbestos in the region.”

Chris Knighton from the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund added: “We are delighted this group is being launched and we look forward to working closely together to provide extra services to those suffering from mesothelioma and their families.

“There has been a need for an organisation of this kind in the North East and Cumbria. I wish this service had been around when my husband Mick was ill as it would have eased the burden of navigating the benefits system during such a heartbreaking time.”

The Northern Asbestos Support and Campaign Group will be launched on April 28, 2010 at Wallsend Memorial Hall followed by a service to commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day.

The group’s drop in centre will be based at Wallsend People’s Centre on Frank Street, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear.

For more information about the Northern Asbestos Support & Campaign Group contact Kevin Rowan, Northern TUC on 0191 232 3175 or 07766250074.

This news story was also published by Shields Gazette.