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Victims facing unwelcome long wait for closure

Victims facing unwelcome long wait for closure

Demands placed on the Historic Claims Unit are leading to a drawn out, and potentially distressing, process of redress for victims of historic abuse, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

The unit deals with claims of abuse for people who were in care, custody, guardianship or were under the supervision of a Child Welfare officer or social worker before 1993. It can provide an apology or even compensation for people who have been abused in care.

“This is a critical process for people who have experienced serious trauma, often at a young age. However, figures suggest it is taking far too long to resolve claims.

“Questions to Paula Bennett, the Minister of Social Development, show that 840 historic claims were at various stages of the resolution process as of 17 April 2014.

“Of claims made since 1 January 2004 (and concluded) the overall average time between the claim being made and it being closed is 24 months or two years. The longest period of time between lodging and closing a claim was nine years and three months. That is unacceptable.

“The Ministry argues there is no delay in addressing claims, but then goes on to state that ‘the time consuming nature of the assessment process and the number of claims being dealt with mean they can take some time to resolve.’

“An additional pressure is the fact that the Confidential Listening and Advice Service (CLAS) is no longer registering any new cases, despite continued demand for the work it does and now refers cases to the HCU.

“In papers released under the Official Information Act, chair of the soon to close service Judge Carolyn Henwood notes that was likely to lead to increased delays.

“Not only that but MSD expects to receive a further 500 claims to the HCU in the next six years as a result of the closure, while more than a third of the 700-plus current claims have been waiting for resolution for more than three years.

“As Judge Carol Henwood notes, long delays can impact on the emotional wellbeing of claimants.

“We must ensure that people abused by those who were trusted to care for them, get the acknowledgement they deserve, not a long queue.”

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