Child sex abuse survivors ‘left in limbo’

Most of the redress payments covered the highest form of abuse under the scheme. Picture: iStock
Most of the redress payments covered the highest form of abuse under the scheme. Picture: iStock

MANY child sexual abuse survivors are distressed at being “left in limbo” after applying for redress through the $3.8 billion national scheme, an advocate says.

Care Leavers Australasia Network vice president Frank Golding says the first year of the complex scheme has been disappointing, frustrating, slow and difficult.

“After a year of that experience, surely we’re in a position to make some changes fairly quickly,” Mr Golding told AAP.

“We can certainly speed up the process and make it more user friendly.”

As the national redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors marks its first year of operation, advocates continue to call for significant changes.

The scheme has received about 4000 applications in its first year, but only 215 payments have been made along with a further 80 offers of redress.

Mr Golding said there needed to be ways for survivors to monitor the progress of their application.

“You put your application in, it goes into a big black hole and you don’t know until you get a call to say we’re making an offer,” he said.

“It is very concerning because people don’t like to push. They’re left in limbo with no information – that’s very distressing for a lot of people.”

New Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the government was committed to improving the scheme and ensuring as many survivors as possible have access to redress.

Senator Ruston and the Department of Social Services said the scheme aimed to conduct the assessments in the shortest time possible, but processing times varied depending on circumstances and application complexity.

Only 215 redress payments have been made. Picture: iStock

A departmental spokesperson said the scheme will continue to enhance its processes to improve processing times and reduce the impact on applicants.

Free legal service Knowmore principal lawyer Prue Gregory said most of the redress payments to its clients covered the highest form of abuse under the scheme, involving penetration, and ranged from $95,000 to the maximum $150,000.

But she said it was hard to ascertain why some clients qualified for “extreme circumstances”, which was worth up to $50,000 to those people who experienced penetrative abuse, and others did not.

Ms Gregory stressed that redress was only one option for survivors, especially after recent reforms to civil litigation across Australia.

“This has meant that the amounts being offered are considerably higher than the cap on redress of $150,000,” she said.

“For many clients, they’re hearing that people who were abused in their institution are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Redress is only one option for survivors, especially after recent reforms to civil litigation across Australia. Picture: iStock

Ms Gregory said some survivors would not be able to cope with a court case nor provide the more intense detail required under civil litigation, leaving the redress scheme as their only option.

“They just haven’t got it in them to go back to their childhood again and pull it apart so they can prove their case,” she said.

Senator Ruston said the scheme was working with all relevant institutions to bring them onboard.

“The government cannot compel any institution to join but encourages all institutions, no matter how small or large, to join as quickly as possible,” she said.

For more information on the National Redress Scheme, visit www.nationalredress.gov.au or call 1800 737 377 Monday to Friday, 8am – 5pm except on public holidays.