29 July 2020: Update on the National Redress Scheme: Criticism by Federal Opposition and Second Year Anniversary Independent Review
Following the second anniversary of the National Redress Scheme (NRS), the NRS has received sharp criticism from the Federal Opposition with respect to the operation of the Scheme and the delays in victims receiving compensation.
The Federal Opposition has claimed that it would take half a century for the estimated 60,000 survivors of institutional child sexual abuse to receive redress at the current rate.
The Scheme had received a total of 7,261 applications as of June 26. Of the 60,000 people who are expected to be eligible for redress, 2,693 payments had been made totaling $220.9 million and a further 612 offers were waiting an applicant’s decision.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Social Security, Anne Ruston, said when the scheme started there was an expectation that a large number of applications would be received early in the scheme. They expected about 20,000 applications based on advice from the Royal Commission. Instead, they received 7500 applications. They now expect a steady stream of applications over the scheme's 10 years to 2028.
There has also been discussion of the significant delays from institutions who are yet to have opted into the Scheme. The spokesperson said, "We have not shied away from the fact that the scheme is not perfect and we have put in considerable resources to improve it for survivors and we will continue to do so,".
Institutions have been afforded a 6-month extension to opt into the Scheme in light of the impacts caused by the recent Covid-19 outbreak. Institutions named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) or named in an application received by the Scheme must provide a clear written statement setting out their intention to join the Scheme by no later than 31 December 2020.
The Scheme have stated that if by this date, an institution has failed to signify their intention to join the Scheme, they will be immediately publicly identified by the Scheme in accordance with Scheme legislation and jurisdictions will consider other appropriate action. This may include financial sanctions applied by state, territory or Commonwealth governments, and changes to an organisation's charitable status. The Scheme has declared that naming institutions is necessary to ensure that people wanting to access the Scheme know the status of relevant institutions.
President of the Blue Knot Foundation Dr Cathy Kezelman agreed the Scheme had faced repeated delays - both in institutions joining and individuals coming forward to apply. Dr Kezelman said implementation of the redress scheme had been questionable to start with, and the assessment process and communication with survivors had been less than ideal.
Ms Burney said the scheme had now been running for more than two years – and survivors have been reporting poor processes, unfair and inconsistent decision making, inadequate payments and chronic delays.
"The scheme simply isn’t working as planned – thousands of people who deserve justice simply aren’t coming forward and the Government needs to fix it," said Ms Burney.
 Power, Julie., (26 July, 2020), ‘Child Sexual Abuse Redress Scheme Pay Outs $610 million slower than expected’, Sydney Morning Herald'
By David Longano
Solictor at Angela Sdrinis Legal