The National Redress Scheme (NRS) is a Commonwealth Government initiative which provides a range of support to adult survivors of child sexual abuse. In this Guide we explain:
· What the scheme is;
· Who is eligible;
· How much you might receive if you are eligible for a redress payment;
· How to apply to the scheme;
· How scheme decisions are made; and,
· Why it is important to seek legal advice before applying to the scheme.
What Is the National Redress Scheme?
The NRS was created as a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The NRS acknowledges that there is no way to ‘put things right’, but provides a set of responses with an aim to:
· Acknowledge that child sexual abuse has occurred;
· Provide psychological counselling and financial compensation/payments to adult survivors of child sexual abuse;
· Provide a mechanism for making various institutions accountable for abuse that happened under their watch.
Through the NRS survivors may be entitled to:
· A redress payment;
· A direct response from the institution;
· Funded counselling and psychological services.
We discuss these possible responses in more detail below.
Who Is Eligible for the National Redress Scheme?
The NRS is available only for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. This scheme is not available for survivors of other forms of child sexual abuse, that aren’t connected to institutional child sexual abuse. There are also other limitations on the NRS:
· It only applies to survivors of abuse that occurred at, or in relation to, an ‘institution’;
· Only those institutions which have voluntarily agreed to participate in the scheme are covered by it. Current participants include the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, the Anglican Church, the Uniting Church, Scouts Australia, and the YMCA. You can read more about participating institutions here;
· Certain individuals may not meet the exclusion criteria. For example, individuals who have been in prison for five years or longer, or those who have already settled a claim with the institution, will not be eligible for the scheme;
· Applications can only be made up until 30 June 2027.
How you can apply?
In order to apply for the scheme, you need to take the following steps:
· Fill out an application either online or by paper. There is no requirement that you appear in person in order to claim under the scheme. It is also possible, if you feel more comfortable, for someone to apply on your behalf as your ‘nominee’;
· Submit any supporting documents;
· Perform an identity confirmation;
· With a witness present, make a statutory declaration. Note, the witness is not required to look at your personal information. All that is required is that they watch you complete and sign the declaration. They then need to complete the witness details and sign it themselves.
Note, that due to the impact of coronavirus, if you are unable to sign your application, or have it witnessed, you may submit unsigned and unwitnessed statutory declarations until 31 December 2020.
Keep in mind that you can only apply for the NRS once, so it is essential that when you apply, everything is in order.
Who Makes the Decision on Redress Payments?
Decisions about redress payments are made by Independent Decision-Makers, and the process is overseen by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services.
If a decision is made that you disagree with, you may seek a review of that decision. In such a case a new Independent Decision-Maker will assess your case. It is worth noting that this second review is final –this means you could end up with less money by seeking a review of the decision.
How Is the Redress Payment Calculated?
The redress payment is determined through the use of special assessment ‘matrix’ which is outlined in the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Assessment Framework 2018. This matrix takes into account both the type of abuse suffered and the situation.
Redress payments can range from $10,000 up to $150,000. It is expected that the average redress payment will be $76,000. Note that you are still eligible to apply for the scheme if you have negotiated a settlement with the institution in question for an amount less than $150,000. However, any amount that you have already received will be deducted from your final redress payment.
Can I Apply Without a Lawyer?
Yes, you can. However, it is worth considering the pros and cons of consulting a lawyer, versus making an application on your own without advice.
Potential advantages of making a claim yourself, include:
· The application form is relatively user-friendly and easy to understand;
· There is no financial cost to making the application.
The potential advantages of engaging a specialist abuse lawyer, before you make your application include:
· Applying for the NRS significantly impacts on your legal rights: By accepting a redress payment, you will be unable to bring a claim in court against that institution or individuals who worked there (see section 43 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018);
· As the amount available through a redress payment is strictly capped, this could result in you receiving a far smaller sum than you would otherwise be entitled to;
· Lawyers understand the rules that apply when making a legal claim before a court, so they can advise you on the possibility or likelihood of your case succeeding;
· If you make mistakes in your application, you may have your application rejected. A lawyer can ensure that your application puts your best case forward;
· Specialist lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the decision-making matrix used for redress payments and are familiar with how decisions have been made in the past.
What Other Support Can You Access?
As set out earlier, in addition to any redress payment you may also have an entitlement to a direct response from the institution, as well as a separate payment for counselling services and psychological support.
NSW Victims Services is also a useful source of support for adult survivors of child sexual abuse in New South Wales: They can arrange access to free counselling services for you.
For adult survivors of child sexual abuse, negotiating the legal system may feel intimidating: It can be difficult to work out what you are entitled to, and what the pros and cons of applying yourself to the NRS are. We strongly recommend that before making an application, you talk to a specialist abuse law firm. Only by seeking out specialist advice will you be able to work out whether the National Redress Scheme, or bringing your own claim through traditional legal methods, is the best option for you. If you apply to the scheme without seeking advice first, there is a risk that you will receive less than you are entitled to.