BARNSLEY miners and their families who are facing ‘huge challenges’ claiming compensation for their industrial injuries - decades after leaving the pits with a host of health issues - should be finally prioritised by the government, local leaders have said.

‘Shameful’ delays in the process were brought to light by Barnsley MPs Stephanie Peacock and Dan Jarvis in Parliament, which also resulted in a meeting with Chris Skidmore, the chairman of the Yorkshire branch of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Under a scheme set up in 1999, miners can claim compensation for industrial injury caused through working in the mines.

Ailments covered by the scheme include respiratory illnesses such as pneumoconiosis, bronchitis and emphysema, as well as industrial deafness and vibration white finger.

Pneumoconiosis - which blackens the lungs due to dust inhalation - on average yields between £30,000 and £50,000 varying on its severity, according to industry experts.

However, families have contacted both Stephanie and Dan - who represent Barnsley East and Barnsley Central respectively - to complain about the government’s handling of claims.

The NUM have also reported that its members have found it difficult to access the funding that they are eligible for following assessment of their conditions.

Stephanie said: “I was pleased to meet with the Yorkshire branch of the NUM alongside other former coalfield MPs from the region.

“It is disappointing that some former miners are finding it difficult to access the industrial injuries disablement benefits that they are eligible for.

“I met with Maximus - responsible for assessing benefits claims - in Parliament in July to raise these issues with them and will continue to advocate for the rights of former mineworkers.”

It is the latest ‘kick in the teeth’ for miners and their families, she said, and comes amid a stand-off with the government about the 70-year-old Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS).

In 1994, upon the privatisation of British Coal’s operations, contributions were closed and the government stepped in as guarantor - in return getting 50 per cent of surpluses, used to improve members’ benefits or offer contribution holidays to employers.

Since then, the scheme’s strong performance has seen the government pocket £4.4bn - double its initial projections - despite not contributing financially.

Calls have been made for this cash to be distributed to miners, but so far it has failed to come to fruition.

Dan added: “It was to good sit down and discuss the challenges facing our coalfield communities with NUM chairman Chris Skidmore and colleagues in Parliament.

“It’s shameful that former miners still face huge challenges when trying to seek support for their industrial injuries.

“The government’s dereliction of duty is causing immense amounts of unnecessary stress for former miners and their families, and they must rectify this.”