7 May 2015

Bid to clear historical abuse claim backlog

8:01 pm on 7 May 2015

People with unresolved claims of historical abuse while in state care are being given the option of speeding up the settlement process.

Anne Tolley

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said the offer only applied to the backlog of claims - not those received after 1 January 2015. Photo: RNZ

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said, under the new approach, claimants would get prompt payment and a letter of apology.

The Ministry of Social Development has received more than 1572 historic claims of abuse since 2004 but so far only 583 have been resolved, with payouts totalling $8.4 million.

The average time to resolve a claim is 27 months, while 207 claims have been in the system for more than five years.

Mrs Tolley said the fast-track process would involve accepting someone's claim at face value, subject to some key facts being checked.

"To make sure that the people were in the places that they said they were at at the time etc, etc, but, you know, they won't be going into the social worker records to see who did what and when and how."

Mrs Tolley said not everyone would want to take advantage of the faster process.

"Some people really, you know, really want to have a full investigation and, you know, they're due that because they've had quite traumatic experiences.

"But, for some, they just want to know that they've been heard, acknowledged, they've got an apology and they can put it behind them."

She said the offer only applied to the backlog of claims and any received after 1 January this year would be subject to the normal process.

However, Labour said the new process was not broad enough, and many will still miss out.

Labour's social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said there were several groups who would not be able to take advantage of this new process.

"Anyone who signs up to it will have their claim assessed based on historic records indicating whether they were abused.

"Unfortunately many would never have been recorded, while in some cases, records no longer exist.

"Secondly, the Minister says fast tracked settlements will be based on claims made to date. She knows full well that many of those will have been from underrepresented and unsupported victims. Every case should be considered individually".

Ms Ardern said those who were underrepresented may not be aware of the trade-offs they were being asked to make.

She acknowledged there should be resolution for those who suffered abuse at the hands of the state and is urging the Government to commit more resources.

"Victims deserve real justice, not an ultimatum".

Lawyer for abuse victims slams new fast-track settlement process

A specialist lawyer for abuse claims Sonja Cooper said the Government was only putting up half the money needed in the new system.

She said some clients going through the fast-track system could be paid less than they are entitled to.

She said she was told people would receive compensation for their abuse based on previous payouts - but there was not enough money set aside to do that.

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