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Progress in production of code for civil claimants of child sexual abuse

Work is underway for a code to be produced for the benefit of claimants who are bringing civil claims for child sexual abuse.

In its Accountability and Reparations Inquiry, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recommended that The International Underwriting Association of London should take the lead in the production of a code for the benefit of claimants who are bringing civil claims for child sexual abuse.

“The aim should be to produce a code, comparable to the Rehabilitation Code or for inclusion in that code, with the objective of ensuring that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are able to access the therapy and support they need as soon as possible,” said IICSA.

The 2015 Rehabilitation Code provides an approved framework for injury claims within which claimant representatives and compensators can work together. The scheme is voluntary; however, the Personal Injury Pre-action Protocol provides that its use should be considered for all types of personal injury claims.

The aim of the Code is to ensure that injured people receive the quality rehabilitation they need to restore their quality of life and earning capacity as soon as possible. Although the principles are the same throughout, the Code recognises significant differences between the handling of lower value injuries which typically receive less than £25,000 and medium or catastrophic injuries.

Important elements of the Code include the claimant is placed at the centre of the process, the claimant's lawyer and the compensator work on a collaborative basis to address the claimant's needs, including early notification of the claim and through early exchange of information while rehabilitation is addressed as a priority. Initial rehabilitation assessments can be conducted by telephone or personal interview, according to the type of case. The resulting report should deal with matters specified in the Code.

The IICSA Rehabilitation Working Party has key stakeholders from the legal profession including defendant and claimant solicitors, insurers, survivors and clinicians.

The group has written to the Investigation Lawyer at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, providing an update on this recommendation, and outlines how the Working Party was established in December 2020 with a balanced membership in order to produce a code that will work for all stakeholders. The group has decided to be identified as the IICSA Rehabilitation Working Party (IRWP) and has agreed their terms of reference.

Helen Merfield of Think Therapy 1st has been appointed as the Chair, recognising that she was integral in bringing the working party together and was involved in the revision of the Rehabilitation Code in 2015.

Helen said: “I know how much work, time and effort went into the revision of the Code in 2015 and while the circumstances and events of abuse are different to personal injury, there are some common elements.”

“While early intervention is crucial in personal injury cases and for survivors of abuse, this isn’t always possible in cases of non-recent abuse. Therefore, we need a Code which deals with current as well as historic cases. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel when there are elements of the existing code they may translate across to the new Code, however, it will have a very different look and feel. We are in the early stages but making good progress fast,” she added.

“We will be producing a user-friendly Code that works for everyone, especially survivors and it will outline a holistic approach which will address all of their needs including education, employment, housing, financial, emotional and psychological support. The clinicians on the Working Group will be looking to ensure the process of litigation does not make things harder for the survivor in terms of re-traumatising them as IICSA has previously highlighted can occur and we will seek to minimise the re-traumatisation from the process. Everyone on the committee is determined and passionate to work together and ensure the survivor gets the help that they require, tailored to their needs, but that also works for the industry, otherwise there will be little uptake of the code” said Helen.

To date, initial IRWP work has focused on discussion of how best to approach the writing of the new rehabilitation code for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Claimant and defendant solicitor representatives are to meet to discuss any potential barriers that their respective positions may bring to the practical application of the code. By addressing these issues at the beginning of the process, the drafting and production of a new code should subsequently be easier and therefore the code will be more effectively used in live cases.

The new code needs to be worded as simply as possible and be accessible to everyone, incorporating the inclusion of diagrams and flow charts. Furthermore, representatives from survivor groups have been invited to be represented on the working party. It is hoped that their participation will ensure that the code is worded to be considerate of its potential audience and that the language does not deter survivors from engaging with the rehabilitation process.

The group has pledged to keep IICSA updated on progress.

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