About the Clydebank Asbestos Group
The Clydebank Asbestos Group was officially formed in 1992 and this step consolidated work which had been ongoing in the area since the late 1980s. In the early days this group survived with access to only the most meagre resources. On one occasion in 1993 it was only a generous donation from the fabrication shop workers at John Browns Engineering which kept the group alive...
The Clydebank Asbestos Partnership - The Way Forward
The Clydebank Asbestos Partnership has met regularly since February 1998. The members of this Partnership are Greater Glasgow Health Board, West Dunbartonshire Council, Clydebank Health Issues Group and Clydebank Asbestos Group (pictured on right)
This Partnership have been extremely pro-active on asbestos issues in West Dunbartonshire since inauguration. This in turn has led to increased workload for the volunteer-based Clydebank Asbestos Group (CAG). The events and publicity generated by Partnership activity has increased the numbers of people who have contacted the CAG, sought support and advice or required information. A number of successful events and initiatives have been organised to assist the work of the Clydebank Asbestos Group.
The following events and initiatives are included in the work of the Partnership...
Asbestos Awareness Day
This event took place on 1st June 1998 in Abbotsford Church, Clydebank. More than 140 people attended this event at some point of the day. Local and national press, television and radio reported the event throughout. This coverage was very positive and a number of local asbestos sufferers and their carers were given advice and assistance as a direct consequence of the Asbestos Awareness Day
In June 1998 West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) became the first local authority in the UK to support the call for a ban on Chrysotile (white asbestos). All elected members supported a resolution which called for a UK ban on the manufacture and use of asbestos. This followed on from the Asbestos Awareness Day and helped to sustain the momentum during the summer months. SUbsequently the area's asbestos problem gained a prominence and the workload of the support group was increased. It was also agreed, within the resolution, that West Dunbartonshire Council would convene a major conference to discuss all aspects of asbestos.
National Asbestos Conference
The National Asbestos Conference was organised to take place on 10th November 1998. This was a major undertaking supported by all members of the umbrella group. This conference was an overwhelming success with over 240 delegates and observers from all corners of the UK in attendance. Significant media coverage resulted in increased requests for advice and information from asbestos sufferers and their families. The national focus of this conference ensured that a number of these requests were from asbestos sufferers who lived outwith the immediate West Dunbartonshire area.
A sub-group of the umbrella organisation meets regularly to discuss various possible publications to assist the work of the Clydebank Asbestos Group. A poster and information leaflets have been produced for use throughout West Dunbartonshire. These are distributed to health centers, hospitals, Social Work & Housing offices and through trade unions. Three hundred posters and 2000 information leaflets are now in circulation. This additional publicity has increased awareness of the asbestos hazard in the local community.
Disability Benefit Training
Clydebank Asbestos Group responded to the challenge of their increased caseload with a commitment to improve the quality of the information which they provide for their members. In relation to benefits advice there is now a clearer understanding that although civil litigation and industrial injury benefits are key issues, other disability benefits and carers allowances are now also routine applications in cases where the claimant appears to satisfy the Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance regulations. The Welfare Rights Representation Unit have organised a training programme which goes a long way to achieving this improvement in the service required. All volunteers and staff are invited to these training sessions.
A short questionnaire was sent out to every member/client of Clydebank Asbestos Group. In particular this helped to identify those members who may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance but who have not submitted claims for these benefits. This exercise also gave some indication of the take-up of the main carers benefit (Invalid Care Allowance). This survey was conducted using the Freepost facility provided by West Dunbartonshire Council. The Welfare Rights Representation Unit will support questionnaire analysis and action.
Increased activity has placed an added burden on the part-time unpaid volunteers who are the backbone of the Clydebank Asbestos Group (CAG). It must also be noted however that the number of CAG volunteers has also increased. In order to manage the workload, money (£10,000) was provided by Greater Glasgow Health Board to finance the Welfare Rights service provided by the group. This was for a period of six months which ended in March 1999. West Dunbartonshire Council awarded the group £25,000 and a grant of £7,000 was allocated through the Partnership to provide computer hardware and software with a view to enhancing the quality of service. A sum of £93,000 was awarded by the National Lotteries Board. This ensured that full time staff were in place to assist with all aspects of the groups work.
While professional assistance is utilized by CAG to meet the current caseload it is important to stress that volunteer-based activity is the lifeblood of this group. In line with this CAG have been consistently trying to develop the skills of the volunteers. Counseling is an important aspect of these skills. In order to equip group members with these abilities a counseling course was organised by Hazel McQuarrie, Senior Training Officer, West Dunbartonshire Council. Following extensive discussions a two-day course was specifically designed to meet the needs of the support group. The training session held on 14th and 21st June 1999 were highly successful. The trainer for both days was Roisin McGoldrick from the University of Strathclyde, Jordanhill Campus.
Clydebank Asbestos Groups caseload cannot be quantified by a simple headcount of the membership. Some members may only have a single benefit claim in addition to a claim at civil law eg. Industrial Injuries Benefit. Most asbestos victims however will require assistance with a number of separate claims to benefit and payments from the 1979 Workmen's Compensation Act. Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance and Incapacity Benefit are the most common welfare benefit claims. In addition to the mainstream entitlement issues there may be a claim for carers allowance or other social work issues to be addressed. For example, a request for a Social Work & Housing input or an Occupational Therapist assessment. Currently the group is assisting with upwards of 75 benefit claims.
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