The Government recently hosted a virtual Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street with the aim of supporting victims of abuse during the current health crisis.
The Summit was hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees included representatives from the National Crime Agency, National Police Chiefs’ Council, victims’ commissioners and leading domestic abuse and children’s charities.
The focus on the summit was to put measures in place to support victims of crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, child sexual abuse and modern slavery.
As countries have closed schools to contain the pandemic there are warnings that there is an increased risk of children being groomed and coerced online into making explicit images and videos of themselves. A combination of children spending more time at home and on the internet is creating the ‘perfect storm’.
Data gathered by the BBC reveals that demand for imagery has shot up. Europol said it had seen increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material and reports of obscene online material more than doubled globally between March to April 2020.
Childline and the NSPCC have both reported an increase in those seeking support through their helplines.
The Windrush Compensation Scheme opened in April 2019 following an outcry over the treatment of British citizens from the Caribbean who faced deportation and the loss of access to public services after being wrongly swept up in an immigration crackdown.
In order for a payment to be made under the scheme, an applicant must first accept the offer made. If an applicant is unhappy with the offer made he/she can request a free internal review. If an applicant still does not agree with the outcome, the applicant can request a further review from the Independent Adjudicator.
Earlier this week the former home secretary, Sajid Javid, commented upon the surge in child sexual abuse which has occurred during the Coronavirus lockdown. He said that he will lead a “no holds barred” inquiry with the Centre for Social Justice think tank to examine organised child sexual exploitation and the abuse of children online.
Research publications cover a range of topics. The most recent research report has considered the motives and behaviours of perpetrators of child sexual exploitation who were convicted alongside other perpetrators. This is one of 15 reports which have been published covering a wide range of subjects. There remain four ongoing research projects which include safeguarding in residential schools, support services for victims and survivors and CSA in ethnic minority communities.
There are 15 investigations – some have had multiple case studies, others have been more focused on specific issues or organisations. There have been hearings in most of these investigations, and reports published for some. The current position is as follows:
The Truth Project is a vital aspect of IICSA’s work as it enables victims and survivors to share their experiences with the Inquiry in a safe and confidential way. As at the end of March 2020 there had been just over 20,000 expressions of interest made to the Truth Project and it had received 4,738 accounts, some in writing, some by telephone and some in person. IICSA has now, working with SignHealth, made it possible for victims and survivors who are deaf to share their experiences via videolink. At the current time, in view of COVID-19, face to face truth project sessions have been suspended.
As we approach six years since Teresa May first announced an inquiry into child sexual abuse we consider in a series of blogs the work undertaken to date and what is yet to be achieved by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). We consider the work of the Truth project, research published, investigations and reports. Today consideration is made of some practicalities
Since the start of the National Redress Scheme in Australia we have provided updates on its progress and yesterday we commented on the recommendations for change made in connection with its implementation. The latest statistics from the NRS are detailed below.
As of 24 April 2020, the Scheme: –
- had received 6,716 applications
- had made 2,093 decisions, including 1,751 payments totalling over $136.8 million
- had made 370 offers of redress, which applicants have six months to consider
- was processing 3,843 applications
- had 859 applications on hold, including 526 because one or more institution named had not yet joined.
Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM
Readers of the BLOG will be aware that the Joint Select Committee (JSC) was established in September 2019 to inquire into and report on:
- the Australian Government policy, program and legal response to the redress related recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including the establishment and operation of the National Redress Scheme( NRS) and ongoing support of survivors
- any matter in relation to the Royal Commission’s redress related recommendations referred to the committee by a resolution of either House of the Parliament.
The JSC has now issued its first Interim Report on the Implementation of the NRS which was released on the 3rd May, 2020.
With the Second Anniversary Review of the NRS set to commence prior to 1 July 2020, the JSC thought that it was important to produce an Interim Report to highlight priority issues and inform the direction of this review.
The report includes 14 recommendations concerning the implementation of the Scheme.
- The JSC recommended that the NRS make a more concerted effort to engage with survivors and survivor groups.
- When establishing the second anniversary review mechanism it is recommended that the Minister for Social Services, ensure that the reviewer should be a reputable person familiar with the operation of other redress schemes in the Australian and/or international context and the review should include survivors or their representatives as members of the review panel.
- In order to improve transparency for survivors the JSC said that each applicant should be provided with an individualised application flowchart which maps out next steps and approximate timeframes, to keep survivors and their nominees better informed about the progress of their application, the Assessment Framework Policy Guidelines should be published and the NRS should establish a direct complaint avenue for survivors, their nominees, and advocates.
- The JSC recommended the removal of the requirement for a Statutory Declaration to accompany each application for redress, as is currently required under section 19, 2 (d) of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018.
- An amendment to the indexation of prior payments was also suggested, so that indexation is applied up until the date an application is submitted, rather than the date of payment offer.
- The JSC said that the second anniversary review should examine the following areas for reform as a high priority:-
- The provision of additional information in the final determination and offer provided to a survivor;
- The appropriateness of the requirement for survivors to sign a deed of release when accepting redress payments, restricting any future compensation claim through civil courts;
- The appropriateness of indexing prior payments; and
- Finally the appropriateness of the current cap and matrix for calculating redress payments.
- The JSC goes on to say that the second anniversary review should examine the following areas for reform as a high priority:-
- Increasing access to counselling and psychological care services, including specialist financial counselling, for survivors who intend to apply for the scheme, and throughout the application process;
- Expanding the provision of out-of-hours support and counselling services;
- Expanding the provision of culturally sensitive services;
- Removing any caps or limits on counselling and psychological care services for survivors.
- The JSC recommended that the second anniversary review examine options to facilitate and better support survivors to seek a direct personal response as a high priority.
- It also recommended that the second anniversary review of the NRS should examine the reasons for the relatively low rate of applications for redress.
- In advance of 30 June 2020 which is the deadline for institutions to join the NRS the JSC advised that the NRS obtain a written statement from each institution which has not yet joined the NRS, but has been named in applications, detailing their intention and timeline for joining the National Redress Scheme.
- The JSC say that the Minister for Social Services convene the Ministers’ Redress Scheme Governance Board by 30 June 2020 to review decisions given by institutions declining to join the NRS and to determine and advise what initiatives will be undertaken by the relevant Commonwealth, state, and territory governments to remove their charitable status and/or other concessions or sources of public funding.
- The JSC also recommended that the Redress Scheme Governance Board expand the circumstances in which the funder of last resort provision applies so that the relevant participating jurisdiction/s act as the funder of last resort where:
- the institution responsible for the abuse is now a defunct institution; and
- the defunct institution would not have fallen under the operations of an existing institution.
- The JSC advised that the NRS closely monitor its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the NRS is as responsive as possible to the increased levels of anxiety, and the more limited access to counselling and psychological care services that is available to survivors.
- The JSC recommended that the second anniversary review investigate the appropriateness of the use of advance payments for survivors who are especially vulnerable as a high priority.
The JSC says that “Every effort must now be placed on meeting the expectations set by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and then by the official Apology, so that more timely justice can be delivered for survivors and their families.”
The Australian Government has responded to the report saying that is it considering the recommendations.
Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM