Phoenix House in Barrow, Cumbria has been earmarked for closure in March 2018 by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Phoenix House is a specialist benefits office that deals with all Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) claims for people diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases throughout the country.
If the closure goes ahead it will be a blow for mesothelioma sufferers who benefit greatly from the expertise that has been built up over many years by the DWP staff based in this office. In addition to IIDB claims, staff at Phoenix process linked benefits such as Constant Attendance Allowance, Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance and lump sums paid under the Pneumoconiosis (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 and 2008 Mesothelioma Scheme.
This is a niche area of the benefits system with complex benefit rules and a vulnerable client group, many of whom are elderly and have been newly diagnosed with a terminal illness. They need to be sure their claims will be dealt with sensitively and efficiently. Staff at Phoenix House tick all these boxes. Advice workers can reassure mesothelioma patients that the benefits to which they are entitled will be processed and paid within two to three weeks in nearly all cases.
The 70 workers in Phoenix House have built up a huge amount of expertise in these specialist benefits over many years. If the office closes the most likely result would be a deterioration in service, longer delays in processing benefit claims and increased uncertainty for mesothelioma patients. Forum groups have developed an excellent working relationship with staff at Phoenix House and the people we help have benefitted greatly from their expertise and empathy.
The Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum UK fully supports the Phoenix House workers in their campaign to keep this office open. We have sent an open letter to the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions which has been supported by all the main charities and support groups working with victims of asbestos diseases, along with people living with mesothelioma, bereaved family members, doctors and lawyers.
We are now in the middle of a General Election campaign. There will be a new Government and new Ministers after June. We intend to keep the pressure on to keep Phoenix House open after the election and will resend the open letter so that the new Government Ministers are left in no doubt about our total opposition to the closure of this office. If you would like to add your support for this open letter, please contact the Forum at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also support this campaign by signing the online petition here.