Latest figures and update re the Australian Redress Scheme

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.

 

AAAAABUSE


moohan_sharonv2

Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM

sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com

First Interim Report of the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme in Australia

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.

  1. The JSC recommended that the NRS make a more concerted effort to engage with survivors and survivor groups.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. It also recommended that the second anniversary review of the NRS should examine the reasons for the relatively low rate of applications for redress.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.


moohan_sharonv2

Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM

sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com

Supreme Court in Victoria launches new Institutional Liability List

On the 10 February, 2020 the Supreme Court of Victoria embarked on a specialised Institutional Liability List to deal only with civil claims related to institutional abuse.

The new list will include claims for damages which have arisen from or following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and/or the State Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

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Redress in Australia – slower than anticipated – changes to be made

On 29 November 2019, the Australian Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, hosted the Ministers Redress Scheme Governance Board, which is a meeting of the relevant Ministers with responsibility for the National Redress Scheme (NRS) in their state or territory.

Those in attendance noted that while redress has been paid to several hundred survivors to date (975 as of 03/01/2020) the administration of the NRS is not providing the fast, simple and trauma-informed response survivors deserve.

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Queensland’s State Parliament passes new legislation to support victims of abuse in pursuing compensation claims

On 30 October 2019 the State Parliament of Queensland passed the Civil Liability and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 which has made it easier for victims of abuse in that state to successfully pursue claims. The legislation widens the definition of abuse to include serious physical and psychological abuse, thereby allowing more victims in Queensland to access compensation under Australia’s National Redress Scheme.

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Australian National Redress Scheme has received over 5000 Applications

The Australian National Redress Scheme (NRS) published an update yesterday (28/10/2019).

Award processing

In that update it advised that as of the 4 October 2019 the NRS had:

  • Received over 5,040 applications
  • Made around 750 decisions
  • Of those 750 decisions the NRS has made 638 payments, totalling over AUS$51.3 million
  • The NRS had also made over 100 offers of redress, and applicants have six months to consider their offer of redress
  • The NRS is currently processing over 3,300 applications, with 618 applications on hold because one or more institution named in the application had not yet joined and about 300 applications requiring additional information from the applicant.

As of 4 October, the average payment under the NRS was AUS$80,019.

From 1 July 2019 to 4 October 2019, 405 applications were finalised, resulting in 399 payments.

This shows that the NRS have improved the rate at which it is making decisions as they have finished more applications since July this year than they did for the first twelve months of its existence.

Institutions update
As of 4 October, there were 61 non-government institutions participating in the NRS, covering over 41,300 individual sites, such as churches, schools and clubs.

In September, a number of new institutions, organisations and religious orders completed the necessary steps to join the Scheme.

The following institutions have completed the steps to join the Scheme:

  • Ballarat and Queen’s Anglican Grammar School
  • The Carmelite Fathers Incorporated (Vic)
  • Legacy Australia Incorporated (this does not include all the Legacy Clubs in Australia, the primary purpose of Legacy Australia Incorporated is the care of dependants of those who served their country; namely, veterans who gave their lives or health on operational service or subsequently, and Australian Defence Force members who die in service or as a result of their service)
  • Parkerville Children and Youth Care Inc
  • The Trustees of the Passionist Fathers

The additions to the Anglican Church of Australia participating group are:

  • All Saints’ College Inc
  • Arden Anglican School
  • Barker Barang
  • Blue Mountains Grammar School Limited
  • Campbelltown Anglican Schools Council
  • The Corporate Trustees of the Diocese of Armidale
  • The Corporate Trustees of the Diocese of Grafton
  • Governors of Hale School
  • Launceston Church Grammar School
  • The Society of the Sacred Advent Schools Pty Ltd as trustee for The Society of the Sacred Advent – St Aidan’s Trust (St Aidan’s Anglican Girls School)
  • The Society of the Sacred Advent Schools Pty Ltd as trustee for The Society of the Sacred Advent – St Margaret’s Trust (St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School)
  • The Synod of the Diocese of The Murray of the Anglican Church of Australia Incorporated
  • Trinity College Gawler Inc

The addition to the Baptist Churches of Victoria participating group is:

  • Warracknabeal Baptist Church.

The addition to the Salesian Society (Vic) participating group is:

  • Boys’ Town Engadine.

The additions to the Uniting Church in Australia participating group are:

  • Aitken College Limited (Vic)
  • Billanook College Limited (Vic)
  • Blackheath Home, Oxley (Qld)
  • Fahan School (Tas)
  • The Geelong College (Vic)
  • Haileybury (Vic)
  • Kingswood College Limited (Vic)
  • Methodist Ladies’ College (Vic)
  • Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (Vic)
  • Pilgrim School Inc (SA)
  • Prince Alfred College (SA)
  • Scotch College (Vic)
  • The Scots School Albury (Vic)
  • UnitingCare Wesley Bowden (SA)
  • Uniting Communities Incorporated (SA)
  • Uniting Country SA Ltd.


moohan_sharonv2 Written by Sharon Moohan, partner at BLM

Cardinal Pell appeals convictions

On 5 June 2019 at the Victoria State Court of Appeal, Cardinal Pell’s legal team launched an application for leave to appeal his conviction on one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16 in a Melbourne cathedral more than 20 years ago. The Court is also hearing the appeal against the conviction at the same time.

Cardinal Pell was sentenced to six years in prison, which he is currently serving in a Melbourne prison and it is reported that he is being held in special protective custody because due to the nature of his convictions he is regarded as being at higher risk of harm from other prisoners.

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Australia – Institutions that have not yet joined the Scheme

In establishing the National Redress Scheme the Australian Government was very clear that it expected every institution in which sexual abuse of children occurred to be accountable for that abuse and to join the Scheme and provide redress.

In fact the Australian Department of Social Services has a dedicated team who contacts Institutions that may have responsibility for abuse, strongly encourages them to join the Scheme, and provides information about how to do so.

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Scottish update

This week, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has announced that on 21 and 23 January 2019 it will hear evidence, via video link from Australia, of witnesses whose evidence is relevant to the child migrant case study. Prior to migration, the witnesses were children in care in residential care establishments run by religious organisations.

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‘Up-skirting’ to be made a criminal offence

In September 2017 we reported on the issue of ‘up-skirting’ – the practice of taking a picture up the skirt or dress of a woman or girl in public, sometimes as part of a programme of harassment by the person taking the picture,  often occurring without the victim ever being aware. The photos are then often circulated to others invading the privacy of, distressing and humiliating whomever is in the picture.  At the time it was noted that this was an example of where the law had not caught up with the misuse of technology.  However, today the government has indicated that it will support a private members bill – the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill 2018 – to make the practice a criminal offence in England and Wales.  The Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 15 June 2018 and it is understood to have cross party support.   Continue reading