10 Feb 2015

Call for apology over state care abuse

11:53 am on 10 February 2015

The Disability Rights Commissioner says the New Zealand Government should apologise to people who have undergone abuse in state care.

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse in state care say delays in resolving historic claims are unacceptable and they called for an independent tribunal to be established.

Commissioner Paul Gibson said thousands of people had experienced abuse, not only in state care, but across health and education as well.

He said New Zealand needed to go through a formal rehabilitation process, similar to a treaty process.

"For the Government to acknowledge what has happened, to learn from it, to put in place not just the compensatory processes, but the means of prevention and having the national conversation to recognise that this has happened and to ultimately say sorry for the Government's role."

The Department of Internal Affairs' Confidential Listening and Assistance Service - set up five years ago to hear the stories of those abused and neglected while in welfare care - is due to close in June.

By then the service will have heard from more than 1100 people.

The service helps victims obtain their records from the Ministry of Social Development.

But it has no power to pay compensation; that's done by the ministry, which said the average time for dealing with claims from notification to closure was 27 months.

The ministry said it remained committed to settling historical abuse claims for those in state care.