The lack of publicly available information about all aspects of redress processes leaves many survivors confused about whether they can make a claim, how they can claim, how their claim will be assessed, and what they might receive at the end of it all. Some were not even told the most basic fact when they first reported abuse: that a claims process was available for them to seek compensation for the harm done to them. Survivors also said they were not given updates while they waited for their claims to be assessed and decisions to be made. Given the lack of information and communication, it is no surprise survivors often became suspicious of the organisations they were dealing with.
No faith-based institution or State agency, (with the exception of the Ministry of Social Development and Catholic Church), publishes more than basic information on how to make a claim, and as many survivors told us, this made a confusing process even more difficult to understand. James Packer, who is Deaf and has Asperger’s syndrome, settled a claim with the Ministry of Education in 2018, before the Ministry improved its systems. He said the lack of publicly available information made it “so hard to understand, to know what was required, and what outcomes were possible in redress. We knew nothing about eligibility of claims, how they were being assessed and by whom, or what sort of compensation was available. There have been so many delays and no clarity around timeframes”. Ann-Marie Shelley, who was abused at a Salvation Army home for unmarried mothers, said she had no idea The Salvation Army had a redress process until she watched the faith-based redress hearing. No State agency or faith-based institution publishes information in accessible forms, such as easy read versions, or forms suitable for blind survivors.
Survivors found even verbally communicated information was not good enough. One survivor, Ms T, said no-one at the Ministry of Social Development explained the historic claims process to her. She said two ministry staff met her but “they were absolutely hopeless and seemed to have no idea”. Another anonymous survivor was made an offer by the ministry through its fast-track process, but even when she received her settlement she “didn’t really understand what ‘fast-track’ meant”.
Many survivors found the lack of contact throughout the assessment stage of a claims process emotionally draining, especially the silence about the progress of their claim and how long they might have to wait for a decision. Mark Goold said more contact from the Ministry of Social Development would have made a difference to him because he would “actually know what is happening with [my] claim, as opposed to feeling like a number”. He said he waited three years without any contact from the ministry, and then out of the blue was invited to a meeting where he was offered an apology and compensation. He said the speed with which it all happened “made me suspicious because I hadn’t heard anything for three years, then the next minute they want to pay me out and get rid of me. I felt I was being railroaded and that [the ministry] were just trying to cover their own backsides”.
One survivor said the Ministry of Social Development gave her no clue about how it arrived at its settlement offer.
“I am not sure why I got the payment or what it was for. Was it for the sexual assaults? Or all the times I had been held to the ground? I do not know. No explanation came with it to say what I was being compensated for.”
Jacinda Thompson said the Anglican Church had no publicly available guidelines on financial compensation, making it impossible for her and others to determine how the church arrived at settlement offers. This was a common experience: months or years of silence, then a settlement offer containing no information about how the financial compensation figure was calculated, or even which abuse it related to. It was difficult in these circumstances for survivors to know if an offer was fair.
Survivors have said they are unhappy with the way State agencies and faith-based institutions fail to hand over copies of investigation reports or provide only heavily redacted versions, fail to explain how they determine compensation offers, and refuse to say who makes decisions about redress offers.
The result of this lack of information, and of any attempt by institutions to actively spread the word about redress, is that many survivors remain unaware of their options, especially those accessing community-based care and those still in mental health facilities and long-term residential care.
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