Public Accounts Committee report finds that the DfE does not know enough about asbestos in the school estate
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report on capital funding for schools. The report states that the DfE does not know enough about the condition of the school estate, and that by excluding asbestos from the last property data survey in 2014, the DfE does not have a complete picture.
The report goes on to recommend that the DfE should, by December 2017 set out a plan for how it will fill these gaps in knowledge and ‘specifically it needs to understand the prevalence, condition, and management of asbestos’.
Public Accounts Committee Inquiry – Children ‘hosed down’ at school after asbestos release
Evidence given by the current and former head teachers of Hetton School in Sunderland to the Public Accounts Committee reveal that on more than one occasion, pupils had to be ‘de-fumigated, de-dusted and hosed down’ because asbestos fibres were released in the school.
It is even more shocking that, when questioned about this, Peter Colenutt, Chairman of the Educational Building and Development Officers Group (EBDOG) said this was ‘fairly typical’.
JUAC has written to Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee to raise further concerns about asbestos management in schools and to request a meeting to discuss the issues further. A copy of the letter is available here.
Tell the DWP to keep Phoenix House open to ensure mesothelioma victims continue to receive specialist support with IIDB!
The DWP is proposing to close Phoenix House, the specialist department that deals with industrial disease benefit claims for asbestos victims. Closing Phoenix House would lead to a permanent loss of valuable expertise provided to mesothelioma patients.
Please sign the petition calling on the DWP to keep Phoenix House open!
The Asbestos Victims Support Forum has prepared a letter to send to the DWP urging them to reconsider this decision. A draft of the letter is available here please email Graham Dring, Chair of the Support Forum if you are willing to add your name to the letter.
Coroner rules that former teacher Sue Stephens died following asbestos exposure at school
Sue Stephens, a former primary school teacher tragically died of mesothelioma in June 2016. Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland has concluded that Sue died from an industrial disease, and on the balance of probability, she was exposed to asbestos during her time as a teacher in Buckinghamshire. Sue’s daughter Lucie said ‘No-one told mum that the schools she taught in contained asbestos so she was unable to protect herself or her pupils from the dangers of exposure to lethal asbestos fibres.’ Read the full JUAC press release here. You can view the FOI responses online here.
Lucie wants the removal of all asbestos in schools to be her mother’s legacy, and has started an online petition, calling on the Government to commit to this. Please sign and share the petition, online here.
FOI requests reveal that councils have paid over £10 million in compensation in the last five years
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted to councils in England and Wales have revealed that more than £10 million has been paid in compensation to staff and former pupils over the last five years because of asbestos exposure in schools. The FOI requests were submitted by Lucie Stephens, the daughter of a former teacher who died of mesothelioma in June.
Commenting on the situation, John McClean, Chair of JUAC, said:
‘What this information reveals is that the Government’s policy of managing asbestos in schools is simply not working and is putting children and staff at risk. We call upon the Government to:
- undertake a national audit of asbestos in schools;
- set out a long term strategy for the removal of asbestos from schools; and
- ensure that the Health and Safety Executive has the funding it needs to inspect schools.’
The full JUAC press release is available here.
JUAC letter to Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner
JUAC has written to Angela Rayner setting out our main concerns about the presence and management of asbestos in schools. The letter sets out the key issues and JUAC’s policy demands. The letter is available here.
Online petition for asbestos removal set up following death of former teacher from mesothelioma
Sue Stephens was a primary school teacher in Buckinghamshire for over 30 years. Tragically, in June 2016 she died from mesothelioma, aged 68, as a result of exposure to asbestos during her time in schools. Sue’s daughter Lucie Stephens has launched an online petition calling on the Government to implement a policy of phased removal of all asbestos in schools, to be completed by 2028. Please sign and share the petition, which is online here.
The Health & Safety Executive
A free-to-download Asbestos Survey Guide
Joint Union investigation in Brent reveals serious failings in school asbestos management
A joint union investigation in the London Borough of Brent has revealed years of asbestos mismanagement in schools. At the heart of the investigation is the story of how a former school pupil developed mesothelioma at the age of 40 because she was exposed to asbestos while a pupil in school.
While the investigation was carried out in Brent, the failings are indicative of a national problem and highlight how asbestos in schools is being managed unsafely. The report makes a number of urgent recommendations to the Government and HSE, which include initiating a policy of phased removal of all asbestos from schools. The JUAC press release about the Brent report is available here. The Executive Summary of the Brent report is available here and the full report is available here.