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Published: 17 December 2018
Author: Kate Malone

Not having a voice is a key problem with National Redress

While faults in the National Redress Scheme are now emerging, it’s the lack of advocacy for survivors of abuse which is emerging as a key issue.

This is because the Redress Scheme is designed to take lawyers out of the picture. “Good”, you might think, but... think again.

Here’s how the scheme works.

You make a claim, it goes off, and an independent Assessor within the scheme looks at it and seeks a response from the institution and then makes a decision.

There is no opportunity for a lawyer or any other advocate to push your side of the story, to respond to something that might have been raised by the institution which you don't agree with.

If a response is to be made you will need to make that yourself, and there is no opportunity for an appeal, so if you're not happy with the outcome you don't get to have someone have another look at whether you're entitled or how much you are entitled to. It's a take-it-or-leave-it process and that of course is very different to the system if you are going through a lawyer.

A lawyer is there to hear your story and to make sure that the important aspects of your claim are put forward. It is also their job to respond to claims from the institution which are not correct or misconceived, so it certainly is a significant defect of the redress scheme that there is no opportunity for that representation.

There's a further defect in the Redress application process which is related to the fact that part of the assessment of your claim is to look at how the abuse has affected you.

There's an opportunity for you to write down in your claim the ways in which you have been affected, or if you have been seeing a counsellor, to get a report from the counsellor, who can write something that they've observed and what you've told them. You’re allowed to include other material.

But a lot of people won't have done that or are not in the position to get a report from their counsellor, or haven't seen a counsellor.

The process that our team of institutional abuse lawyers use is to ask clients to go and see a trained person, usually a psychiatrist, who can prepare a report in a form that sets out the abuse that's been suffered and the impact on that person at the time, and throughout their life.

By spending time with a client those trained people are able to help the client to see what the impact has been, and help them to frame it in a way that they would find difficult when filling in the form online or sitting down at home with a piece of paper. There are real issues as to whether a person is going to be able to communicate the impact of the abuse.

So if you do choose Redress there is no opportunity for you to have an advocate in your corner, to push your side, to make the points that you want to be made and to counter whatever might be brought up by the institution.

You’re on your own.

Which is why it’s important to speak with an experienced institutional abuse lawyer beforehand to see if there aren’t better ways in which to obtain justice and a better for redress.