National Redress Scheme Disappointment

It’s been a year since the inception of the National Redress Scheme (‘NRS’) for victims of childhood institutional sexual abuse and the statistics are disappointing for victims.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
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The NRS reports that it has received over 4,100 applications and that redress payments have been made on 229, meaning that just over 5% of applicants so far have received redress.

Although Parliament’s intentions were certainly admirable in creating a Scheme as soon as possible after the conclusion of the Royal Commission, the rush to draft and pass a Bill into law has meant that the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act (‘the Act’) contains a number of uncertainties and difficulties for victims.

The Act prescribes a maximum payment of $150,000, however the maximum payment is only available to a limited number of victims. The average payment of Redress has been $83,000, significantly less than what would be available to victims for common law damages.

The amount of Redress available to victims will depend on the circumstances of each individual and whether they meet the criteria for each ‘category’ of Redress. The ‘categories’ of Redress, are inadequately defined by the Act, meaning that for victims and those advising them, there can be uncertainty about potential outcomes of claims.

Victims have sought our assistance with the over 30-page application form which requires significant detail and can be extremely difficult and traumatising for victims to complete. The NRS also only offers limited assistance with counselling expenses, far less than would be available to a victim from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

Time frames for the processing are unknown as there are no legislated timeframes for decision making.

A victim can only make one application to the Scheme and if they are not successful, they cannot apply again. As a number of institutions have still not signed onto the Scheme, victims may need to wait to lodge an application so as to maximum the potential benefit if multiple institutions are involved.

One of the more disappointing limitations of the NRS is the lack of an external review, meaning that applicants cannot apply to a Court for a review of a determination regarding their claim, even if they disagree.

Arnold Dallas McPherson has been assisting victims of sexual abuse to obtain compensation for 25 years. There has been significant legal reform in this area in Victoria over the last few years and given the limitations of the NRS, victims should obtain legal advice about the prospects of any other types of claims before lodging a National Redress Scheme application.

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