Campaigning charities have welcomed the announcement that there will be a full review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
Coalition partners Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan, Victim Support Chief Officer Diana Fawcett, Rape Crisis Co-Chairs Dawn Thomas and Dianne Whitfield said they were delighted that the Justice Secretary has announced a full review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to ensure "it reflects the changing nature of crime and can better support victims".
"We are particularly pleased that the unjust and arbitrary ‘same roof’ rule, where some victims of child sexual abuse have been denied compensation, has been abolished," they added.
Under the 'same roof' rule, applicants are not entitled to compensation if they were living with their assailant as members of the same family at the time of the incident.
Ministers have ordered this review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) to improve access to compensation and to consider how the scheme might better serve victims - especially victims of child sexual abuse and terrorism. The review will begin immediately and is expected to report in 2019 with recommendations for reform.
The plans are set out in the first ever cross-government Victims Strategy which will coordinate government support for victims of crime to focus support and services around the individual.
The CICS awards taxpayer-funded payments to victims injured as a result violent crime, and paid out more than £150 million to victims in 2017/18. This scheme is just one way in which victims are supported, with other ways including rehabilitation, psychological care, and outreach support.
More victims of violent crime will be able to receive the compensation to which they are entitled and ministers have abolished the pre-1979 ‘same-roof’ rule of the CICS which is especially relevant for victims of historic child abuse.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "Whilst no amount of compensation can make up for the immense suffering endured by victims of violent crime, it is vital they receive the help and support needed to rebuild their lives.
"I’m announcing that we will review the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to ensure it reflects the changing nature of crime and can better support victims, especially of historic and current child abuse. Over the years we’ve seen more prosecutions for sexual offences and sadly experienced the horror of terrorism. We need to make sure these victims get the awards they’re due so we will be looking to ensure the criteria are appropriate.
"We will also scrap the pre-1979 ‘same roof rule’ which unfairly blocked some victims from compensation. These two measures will ensure that victims of violent crime will get the compensation to which they are entitled," he added.
The review will look at concerns around the eligibility rules of the scheme, the sustainability of the scheme and the affordability of any changes to be made. The review will also enable the government to take full account of recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The review will look at issues in CICS, including:
- Time limits for applications – the scheme’s time limit requires that applications be made by a person over 18 as soon as practicable and no later than two years after the date of the incident. It is suggested that victims of child sexual abuse disproportionately delay reporting such crimes and applications for compensation, and therefore miss out on compensation.
- The ‘same roof’ rule – removing the pre-1979 rule and considering further changes to the remaining ‘same roof’ rule and previous failed applications.
- Unspent convictions – the scheme automatically excludes an award if the applicant has an unspent conviction which resulted in a specified sentence (custodial sentence, community order or youth rehabilitation order). It is suggested the rules disproportionately impact vulnerable victims of child sex abuse who may have offended in response to being abused/exploited/groomed.
- Crime of violence– the scheme sets out what constitutes a crime of violence for the purposes of assessing entitlement to compensation. It is suggested that this definition should be broadened to include sexual exploitative behaviour, such as grooming.
- Terrorism - the terrorist attacks of last year left people with serious life changing injuries and brought to light questions about the suitability of the scheme in providing support to victims of terrorism. The review will consider and clarify the eligibility, entitlement and amount of compensation to be awarded. This will build on the roll-out of the ground-breaking Victims of Terrorism Unit last year, to help ensure the best possible support.
"As a coalition, we have long campaigned to get justice for victims of child sexual abuse who have lost out due to illogical rules governing the Scheme," said the coalition partners Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan, Victim Support Chief Officer Diana Fawcett, Rape Crisis Co-Chairs Dawn Thomas and Dianne Whitfield.
"We look forward to feeding into the review to ensure that the rules related to child grooming victims and those with unrelated criminal convictions are also changed. We are glad the Ministry of Justice has listened to our concerns, so victims will at long last get the compensation they so rightly deserve," they concluded.