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BBC News: Councils pay out £10m for school asbestos claims

Fieldfisher Partner Andrew Morgan spoke with BBC Radio Kent's John Warnett and Maggie Doyle this morning (7:05am)  on their popular Breakfast Show, following reports that Kent Council has paid £850,000 to school teaching and support staff over the past 10 years.

Listen to the live radio talk here

The BBC has discovered that asbestos is present in 344 schools in Kent and there are calls to remove asbestos from all Kent schools.

On the same programme Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Campaign Group Asbestos in Schools, called for a phased removal of asbestos from schools in Kent and across England and for greater information to be made available to teachers, support staff and parents.

Asbestos surveyor  John Francis of Riverside Environmental, Hextable, Kent, said he found that that schools often obtained poor quality asbestos surveys or failed to take action or to notify staff and parents. He said the asbestos hazard in schools could be better managed and that schools were not treating it as a priority.

After her mother, a teacher, developed mesothelioma around the time of her retirement, Lucie Stephens started a petition asking the Government to remove all asbestos from schools. Her mother was worried that she hadn’t protected the children in her class from the effects of asbestos exposure.

Nick Childs South East Officer of National Union of Teachers said it was better to take asbestos out rather than leave it in place. He said the Government's own Committee on Carcinogens accepts  that children suffer a 5- fold increase in the risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of exposure in schools.

On this morning's programme, Andrew says:

"Teachers, doctors, nurses and other professionals form an increasing proportion of those now developing mesothelioma. In order to claim compensation they have to prove negligence but in some cases what we have seen goes far beyond mere negligence , conditions so dangerous that asbestos surveyors will not go in to undertake a survey. Leaving asbestos on site leaves it vulnerable to exposure in the future. As to the cost of asbestos removal from the schools, I think you need to ask whether a risk of death can be allowed to persist when it is avoidable."

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