VICTIMS of an asbestos-induced cancer in East Lancashire are beginning to take advantage of a new assistance scheme designed to compensate now-defunct firms whose insurers cannot be traced.

Dozens of people in the area have contracted mesothelioma after exposure to the material through working at factories and power stations, or in the building trade, from up to 40 or 50 years ago.

The symptoms only emerge after decades and routinely prove fatal — by which time related employers mhave gone out of business. But a new Mesothelioma Act has been passed giving eligible victims the chance to claim compensation packages of around £123,000.

An initial debate in the House of Commons had set the awards at around £115,000 but government sources say they have managed to reduce the administration costs of the scheme.

Mike Penning, Works and Pensions Minister, said: “This will end years of injustice for mesothelioma victims and their families – who have had to endure this terrible disease with little hope of any compensation from the insurance industry.”

The compensation scheme is supported by the insurance industry and it is estimated that around 800 cases this year, and 300 every subsequent year up to 2024, will benefit.

Around £7,000 in additional legal fees will be available Eighty-six deaths were reported from mesothelioma in in East Lancashire in 2012, with higher proportions in Blackburn with Darwen, Chorley and Pensdle.

A number of asbestos-related deaths have been linked to working at the Garden Street gas mask factory in Blackburn during the war and the former Huncoat Power Station.