Royal Commission – Out-of-home care

The Royal Commission’s (RC) final report includes a volume specifically dealing with institutional responses to child sexual abuse in contemporary (post 1990) out-of-home care.

The out-of-home system in Australia is similar to the UK in that when a child is considered to be unsafe living with their family or in an informal care arrangement, they are placed with alternative carers on a short or long term basis. These placements usually occur after there has been some statutory intervention.

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Support Services for survivors

As reported last week the Royal Commission has published its final and lengthy report. It covers many subjects, themes and organisations and in the next few weeks there will be further commentary on this blog about some of those topics and crucially the recommendations made.

One theme which has run through the work of the Royal Commission has been that of redress. Two years ago a redress scheme was recommended and it has now, in an amended version, been approved in principle to take effect from 1 July 2018. Redress means many different things to different people. As Lambeth Borough Council sought yesterday, amid some confrontation, to approve a scheme which seeks to make the path to redress simpler, it is clear that it is by no means straightforward to achieve. Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) retweeted a range of negative comments about the scheme which had taken over a year to draft and had had significant input into it from SOSA itself and its legal team. Yet it still remained the subject of damning criticism from some.

One issue which will always be a challenge is how to assess a monetary value in compensation for the abuse and its consequences. The Royal Commission recommended a scheme with maximum payments of A$200,000 (£114,760); the Australian Government Scheme implementing the Royal Commission recommendations will award up to a maximum of A$150,000 (£86,070); the Lambeth Scheme has a maximum payment of £125,000; the Northern Ireland recommendations which have made no progress since being published in January 2017 were for payments of up to £100,000. These are maximum payments for the most severe abuse. These may or may not be life changing sums of money, for some whatever the sum it is the recognition of the harm done which is what the money represents and for others no sum however big or small will compensate for what happened and what the consequences of the abuse have been. No matter what approach an organisation takes in assessing a monetary value for redress it is likely it will not be considered right by all victims and survivors. Making that assessment can be very difficult for all involved and a clear and easy formula for making a fair assessment which could be understood and applied by all is needed and remains elusive.

The Royal Commission’s 2015 report concluded that redress should include not just monetary payments but also a direct personal response as well as counselling and psychological care. The final report has expanded the response to victims and survivors to include the provision of a much wider, integrated and cohesive range of support services. Those recommendations include that there be a dedicated system of community-based support services which provides advocacy and support, including counselling and case management. The creation of a national service to assist victims and survivors understand the legal options and navigate the legal system is proposed, along with a national telephone helpline and website to provide information and assistance. The national service should, the Royal Commission concludes, be funded by the Australian Government and provide advice including about accessing, amending and annotating records and options for initiating police, civil litigation or redress processes. It will be interesting to see which of these recommendations are effected and which will be similarly recommended by the inquiries in England and Wales and Scotland when they in due course report on redress and support for survivors.


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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of abuse and neglect at BLM.

Final Hearing Day and Final Report publication by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse sat at 9.30am on Thursday the 14 December in Sydney for the last time.

The Chair Justice McClellan noted that on 12 November 2012 Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the creation of the Royal Commission, which was to be a national commission held jointly with each of the States and Territories.

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Message to Australia – The Survivors’ Report

As the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse draws to an end, with the final sitting of the five year inquiry having taken place on 14 December, 2017, the Royal Commission handed over a commemorative book to the National Library of Australia entitled ‘Messages to Australia’. The volume will be permanently retained in the National Library of Australia, with a copy also held in each State and Territory Library, to ensure that these personal stories are never forgotten.

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Inquiries update

The four active national abuse inquiries are all at the moment running smoothly, a positive step for the inquiries in Scotland and England and Wales in particular. Recent progress and up-coming developments are summarised below.

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Learning from jurisdictions overseas and IICSA research

Much work has already been completed in jurisdictions outside of England & Wales about preventing and responding to child sexual abuse (“CSA”). Tomorrow (12 April) the IICSA is holding a seminar about best practice overseas to coincide with the publication of a report by the University of Central Lancashire on the same topic. The seminar will be held at the International Dispute Resolution Centre, London and is open to the public to attend.

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Inquiries update: progress and developments

The various inquiries connected with sexual abuse of children have now had a period of making progress. Recent and expected developments are summarised below.

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry

The final report from the Jersey inquiry was due to be available within the first quarter of 2017. However, it has recently been announced that publication will be delayed for a short period.  This is due to some new information being made available to the panel in relation to Phase 3 of the enquiry dealing with recommendations for the future of childrens’ care in Jersey. A revised publication date has yet to be confirmed.

IICSA

The first hearings in the Children Overseas – Child Migration investigation have been held. A number of child migrant witnesses gave oral evidence along with the Inquiry appointed experts. The organisations involved in child migration will give their evidence at a hearing starting on 10 July. A further preliminary hearing will be held on 9 May.

The Victims & Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP) has published revised Terms of Reference. The Panel has seven members who will advise the Inquiry on its engagement with victims and survivors; its communication with the public; share their expertise and knowledge in developing the work of the Inquiry; and advice on the formulation of recommendations. The VSCP has published a report on its work to date.

A second preliminary hearing in the Accountability & Reparations Investigation will be held on 28 March. There are five case studies within that investigation and a timetable is anticipated for evidence and hearings in those five case studies.

The Department of Sociology at Lancaster University has been commissioned by the Research Project to prepare a rapid evidence assessment of what is known about the characteristics and vulnerabilities of victims of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation. Anyone wishing to contribute material to this research is requested to provide materials by 28 April 2017.

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

The SCAI has now published a number of administrative guides to explain how it will operate. These include protocols for the provision of witness statements and other evidence and for anonymity and other restriction orders. Factsheets explaining what the SCAI will do when it is told about abuse and disclosure of allegations have also been produced.

Royal Commission, Australia

As noted in our earlier blog the RC is producing many publications as it moves to its final report. In the last two weeks it has published the following:

  • A research report which considers the recruitment and support of carer in out-of-home care which includes foster care, kinship care and residential care settings
  • A research report which looked at the current services and facilities focused on child sexual abuse prevention. This concluded that there was a lack of co-ordination between the various organisations working in this area.

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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and abuse claims expert at BLM