Too 'healthy' to receive benefit

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The Independent Online
Seventy-six-year-old William Lambert has been told that his case against British Coal will come to the courts in summer 1997 - "That's if I live that long,'' writes Hazel Duffy.

He started working in the South Wales pits when he was 14 and left 35 years later in 1968 after an accident - for which he got pounds 800 compensation. He worked then for the local council and retired 10 years ago.

Mr Lambert, who lives alone in Dinas Powys, Glamorgan,needs a cylinder of oxygen a day to help him breathe. "I have pneumoconiosis, category two, which was first certified in 1978, emphysema and bronchitis,'' he said.

He has been turned down for social security benefit because he has not lost enough of his lung capacity to "qualify". He manages on his old age pension.

"I have wonderful friends and neighbours who get my meals. But I'd like a stairlift. The toilet is upstairs and I can't always get up and down. I keep a bucket downstairs. The social services say they would put in a lift, but I'd have to be means-tested. I'll get one if I get some money from British Coal.''

With the backing of the union, he hopes his benefit appeal will come up soon with the prospect of bigger compensation from the court action.

A former employer, a subcontractor to the (then) National Coal Board, has offered him pounds 1,000 to settle out of court. However, having fought so long, and even with his life ebbing away, Mr Lambert is not disposed to such a deal.