The National Redress Scheme, running for more than two years, has been plagued by delays with survivors of child sexual abuse reporting poor process and unfair decision making, according to the federal opposition.
An estimated 60,000 survivors of institutional abuse are expected to seek redress, but the number of claims made so far is just over 7000.
“Government has been incredibly slow in processing applications and claims and they have not taken this seriously enough, and moved it along quickly enough,” Labor’s spokesperson for families and social services Linda Burney said after last week’s Economic and Fiscal Update showed payments under the National Redress Scheme would decrease by $610 million to mid-2021.
The Government’s papers attribute the decrease to a “slower than expected uptake by survivors’ for the write-down.”
Ms Burney said the Redress Scheme was meant to deliver justice for survivors, not savings for governments and institutions.
“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,” she told the Guardian.
However a spokesperson for the Minister for Social Security, Anne Ruston, said that the $610 million decrease was not a budget saving.
Rather, once a survivor accepted an offer of redress, the Commonwealth paid the money, and later this would be recouped from the relevant institutions.
The Redress Scheme has received a total of 7261 applications, 2693 payments have been made totalling more than $220.9 million and 612 offers are awaiting an applicant’s decision.
The number of early applications is far fewer than expected, which explains the $610 million reduction in spending in the budget forecast.
Earlier this month, advocates for child sexual abuse survivors claimed survivors are being re-traumatised because of shortcomings in the redress scheme.
Care Leavers Australasia Network executive officer Leonie Sheedy said unless improvements were made some survivors would not even try to seek redress.
“So many of them are not doing it because they say it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it financially and psychologically,” Ms Sheedy said.
Knowmore principal lawyer Anna Swain also called for action to reduce lengthy delays, while noting there had been a significant increase in the number of redress offers and determinations recently.
“Some survivors have been waiting more than 18 months for an assessment and these delays are unacceptable,” she said.
“It’s certainly not the quick, trauma-informed, survivor-focused redress process that survivors were promised in that regard.”
Knowmore also raised concerns that there was inconsistent and unfair decision making in individual assessments.