Mesothelioma victims who cannot trace their employer’s insurer will get 100% of the average court settlement in the scheme of ‘last resort’, the govenment has announced.

People suffering from the disease can apply from this week to receive 100% of the average compensation award for civil claims made through the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.

The government had previously set the tariff at 80% of average payments when the scheme started last year.

Mark Harper, minister for disabled people at the Department for Work and Pensions, said the increase follows monitoring of the progress of the scheme, which has shown that fewer claimants than anticipated have used it.

In a written ministerial statement, he said: ‘I made it clear through the passage of the Mesothelioma Act that I planned to monitor the scheme to gauge the extent that the assumptions made when it was being set up had been borne out in practice and would also consider the impact on the insurance companies who pay for it.’

The redress scheme is designed to allow around 3,500 cancer victims or their families apply for compensation even when their original employer cannot be traced.

Harper said further safeguards have been agreed with the insurance industry, including a new stipulation that victims have to show that legally they would have had a good case if the employer or its insurer could have been traced.

Campaigners have welcomed the increased limit for payments but criticised the government for declining to backdate the extra payment.

Adrian Budgen, head of the asbestos-related disease team at Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘We repeatedly called for the government to pay out 100% of the individual’s entitlement and feel very strongly that at very least the increase in the average payment should be backdated to the beginning of the scheme.’

John Spencer, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, added: ‘The government should be applauded for acting quickly to exploit the lower than expected uptake of the scheme, but it is still highly regrettable that 100% compensation was not available for all mesothelioma sufferers from the inception.’