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Keep Phoenix House benefits office open! By Graham Dring, Chair, Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum UK

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.

Phoenix House also administers compensation claims for ex-miners. 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 weeks or so 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 Forum fully supports the DWP workers in their campaign to keep Phoenix House open.

We are asking supporters of Mesothelioma UK to help us defend this vital service for mesothelioma sufferers. Please:

• Write to your local MP demanding that Phoenix House stays open.

• Sign the online petition at https://www.change.org/p/department-for-work-and-pensions-save-phoenix-house-keep-jobs-in-barrow-retain-asbestos-disease-knowledge-experience

• Send messages of support to PCS Cumbria DWP Branch, 22 Schneider Road, Barrow-in-Furness LA14 5DW