04:56, January 23 122 0 theguardian.com

2019-01-23 04:56:07
Crime compensation scheme traumatising survivors, report finds

Survivors of violent crime are being re-traumatised by the government’s compensation body, according to a report.

The victims’ commissioner, Helen Newlove, said her review into the criminal injuries compensation scheme found that victims were alienated and frustrated by the process. Many reported that the compensation scheme was so stressful it could re-trigger trauma.

Survivors of violent crimes were asked to constantly repeat their story, and often faced delays, uncertainty and poor communication, Lady Newlove said.

People who suffer as a result of violent crimes that take place in England, Wales or Scotland can be awarded taxpayer-funded payments of up to £500,000 through the scheme. Claims can be made in relation to mental or physical injury, sexual or physical abuse, loss of earnings and the death of a close relative.

“The process of claiming is often having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. I worry that we are treating it as a tick-box exercise, without recognising the emotional needs of those making claims,” Newlove said.

The report found that nearly 40% of victims felt the need to turn to a third party to pursue their claim because of the distress caused by the process or the sheer complexity of the application.

Those who use lawyers could lose up to a quarter of their award in legal fees, but support available for victims in making a claim was patchy and in some areas, nonexistent, the report said.

The review also found that three in five victims spoken to were not aware of their entitlement to claim. “This raises a question as to whether there are potentially thousands of victims who fail to claim compensation simply because they are unaware of the compensation scheme,” Newlove said.

Another concern was the requirement for victims to complete forms outlining details of the crime, including location, dates and addresses.

The report said: “Evidence from this review demonstrates that completing this part of the CICA (Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority) application form is highly traumatic as it re-triggers memories of the incident.

“Some victim service providers make the point that the level of detail required from victims is unethical, given current knowledge about the negative effects of continually asking victims to repeat their story.”

The scheme was set up in 1964 and paid out more than £150m in 2017-18.

The review engaged more than 200 victims, as well as police and crime commissioners, victim support services, criminal justice agencies and lawyers.

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