The National Redress Scheme is in full swing with many applicants receiving offers of financial redress in respect of institutional sexual abuse. The Redress Scheme offers financial compensation, counselling and in some circumstances a direct response from the Institution involved.
In our experience the Redress Scheme should only be considered as a last resort, for those who cannot pursue other legal avenues. The maximum payment under the scheme is $150,000, and the average payment is around $75,000. Clearly, this is insufficient to compensate survivors for sexual abuse, which often has far reaching and ongoing consequences.
The Redress Scheme uses a “matrix” to determine amounts of redress payable. The matrix breaks abuse into three categories “penetrative” abuse (which includes digital penetration and oral sex), “contact” abuse and “exposure” abuse. Other factors taken into account include the impact that the abuse has had on the person, whether there was related non-sexual abuse, whether it was perpetrated in an institutional setting and whether there are any aggravating or “extreme” factors.
The application of the matrix can result in some fairly unjust (not to mention minimal) awards of compensation. It is important for survivors of institutional and other sexual abuse to consider alternative avenues first. Alternate avenues include civil claims for damages, which can be litigated or unlitigated. You should obtain advice about these options.
A civil claim for damages will result in much higher awards of compensation than the Redress Scheme. Amounts can be claimed for pain and suffering, economic loss, treatment expenses and attendant care or domestic assistance. Further, most institutions are willing to offer formal acknowledgement of the harm/abuse and apologies (written and verbal). It is always preferable to consider a civil claim for damages before the Redress Scheme.
Time Considerations – Get legal advice BEFORE lodging any application under the Redress Scheme
There are no longer any statutory time limits on civil claims involving childhood sexual abuse. The Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2016 removed these time limits. This was a very important legal development, because previously many cases involving institutional and sexual abuse were statutory barred.
Similarly, an application can be made to the National Redress Scheme at any time. The Scheme started on 1 July 2018 and will run for 10 years.
However, it is important to note that once an offer is made under the National Redress Scheme, there is a time limit of 6 months in which to accept the offer. During this time applicants are encouraged to seek independent legal advice in relation to the offer. A problem which can be encountered however, is that 6 months is insufficient time to investigate and bring a civil claim for damages. It is preferable that this option be considered first, with the Redress Scheme as a last resort.
If you have lodged an application under the Redress Scheme, we encourage you to withdraw this (before the offer is made) and seek legal advice. The application can simply be lodged at a later time if necessary. If however, you have already received an offer under the Redress Scheme, you must make a decision about this within 6 months.
Sydney Compensation Specialists are on the Knowmore Panel of lawyers, qualified to provide advice on both civil claims and Redress applications. Knowmore are the organisation who were originally set up to help survivors navigate the Royal Commission. We can provide you with advice in relation to your options in relation to bringing a civil claim for damages or an application under the Redress Scheme, and which is the best option for you. Of course, all dealings are confidential and are provided on a no win/no fee basis.
Kim Breda, Principal Lawyer