Update on the Australian National Redress Scheme

Second anniversary independent review submissions due by 11 November 2020

Robyn Kruk AO was appointed to conduct an independent review of the NRS which is required by the legislation (Section 192 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act, 2018), her review will examine the operation and administration of the NRS, the experience of applicants, the financial support provided to the NRS and the support that is provided to applicants and people thinking of applying. Ms. Kurk AO is seeking submissions from applicants, their families, support service and advocates and she will provide a report to the Australian Government. The Australian Government will respond to that report and in due course the report and the Government response will be published. Due to Covid-19 the final date for provided feedback and/or making a submission was extended from 23 October 2020 to 11 November 2020.

The review was due to be completed in early 2021, and was expected to report to the Minister for Families and Social Services by the end of February 2021 however, in light of the extended date for feedback and submission this timetable will also likely be extended.

National Redress Scheme strategic success measures report published on 26 November 2020

In April 2020, the Redress Scheme Governance Board commissioned the establishment of a set of strategic success measures for the NRS. The NRS strategic success measures provide survivors and the broader community with an indication of how the NRS is performing.

The measures focus on three priority areas within the Scheme:

  • Survivor Experience,
  • Health of the Scheme and
  • Equity of Access.

On the 26 November 2020 the NRS published its first report on strategic success measures, the publication of this report and its finding in respect of these strategic success measures provides the preliminary basis for gauging the overall performance of the NRS to date. This report covers the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 and used data up to 30 September 2020.

The report noted that the NRS is committed to delivering continual improvement in how it delivers redress, this includes aiming to ensure that at least 80% of applications that name institutions that participate in the NRS have a decision communicated to the applicant within six months of being received by the NRS. In addition the NRS says that it will continue working closely with all state and territory governments to ensure institutions named in applications for redress join the Scheme.

The report shows that substantial improvements have been made in application processing times. From 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, the NRS finalised a total of 239 applications, giving an average of 20 per month over the period. By comparison, from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020, the NRS finalised a total of 2,537 applications, giving an average of 211 per month over the period. Further improvements were seen in the period from November, 2019 to April 2020 where the NRS provided an average of around 260 outcomes to applicants per month and in May and June 2020, this increased to 590 outcomes per month.

As of the 30 September 2020, 77% of applicants have accepted the offer of redress made to them by the NRS, 54% of applicants had accepted an offer of counselling and psychological care and 45% of applicants had requested a direct personal response from an institution.

As at 30 September 2020, the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments and 272 non-government institutions are participating in the NRS, covering more than 51,000 sites. These figures increased substantially between the first and second years of the NRS. The number of non-government institutions participating increased from 47 as at 30 June 2019 to 272 as at 30 September 2020.  It was reported that a further 158 institutions in this category have committed to join the NRS by 31 December 2020. Institutions named in applications or by the Royal Commission that do not join the NRS will be publicly named and may face financial penalties. We will be doing a separate blog later in the week focussing on this specific aspect of the NRS.

The report also provides some interesting data on the applicants themselves, 15% of applicants to date are aged 70 or older, 34% of applicants identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and 50% of applicants have a disability.

The report notes that in its second year of operation the NRS wished to prioritise the processing of the large number of applications received in the first year (prior to 1 July 2019). These older applications were prioritised over new applications received during this time and around 2,537 applications received in the first year have now been finalised. While there are a small residual number of older claims currently being actioned, the NRS expects that these timelines for application processing will continue to improve.

Similar reports will be published on a 6 monthly basis going forward.

Application progress as at 18 December 2020

As at 18 December 2020, the Scheme:

  1. had received 9,008 applications had made 5,262 decisions
  2. issued 5,113 outcomes finalised 4,503 applications, including 4,464 payments totalling approximately $371.2 million
  3. had made 563 offers of redress, which are currently with applicants to consider
  4. was processing 4,188 applications

Sharon Moohan is a Partner at BLM sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com

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