PCCs and police should help reform victims’ compensation scheme
The Victim’s Commissioner has criticised the Government’s compensation scheme its “traumatic” process and has called upon police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and the police to help with reforms.
The report published today (January 23) by Baroness Helen Newlove, Victims’ Commissioner, engaged with the first-hand experience of over 200 victims of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
In addition, 30 PCCs responded to a survey about the provision of support for victims applying for criminal injuries compensation in their local area. Written information was also received from the National Lead for Victims at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing.
The report found that while compensation was welcomed by most victims, the process itself was traumatic and the scheme frustrated and alienated victims.
Baroness Newlove said: “I believe criminal injuries compensation is important in helping vulnerable victims cope and recover from the most brutal of crimes. Yet my Review shows that the process of making their claim, which should strengthen victims, can have the opposite effect. The process of claiming is often having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing.”
The Scheme means victims who have suffered the most serious sexual and violent assaults or who have lost a loved one to homicide are eligible to apply for compensation.
However, the Office of the Victims’ Commissioner launched a review of the Scheme after being contacted by a number of victims regarding their negative experience.
The report concluded that there was no need for victims to go through the traumatic experience of providing details of the crime for the application form including times, dates, incident addresses, relationships to the perpetrators and details of the incident. This is because CICA apply to the police for a full copy of the victim statement and reports as well.
But, if the reform means that CICA are to rely on police reports alone, then difficulties accessing the information must be eradicated, said the report. As many police forces use different systems, obtaining information through crime reference number can often mean significant delays.
Forces are expected to return the information within 30 days, but many forces failed to do so, including Warwickshire Police who returned only 19 per cent within 30 days and Greater Manchester Police returning only 20 per cent within the recommended time-frame.
To overcome this, CICA is working with Police Scotland in the early stages on protocols for data sharing agreements which would allow the Authority to access the information directly.
The report also noted that it is “worrying” if, like the research suggests, two-thirds of victims are not being made aware of their entitlement to compensation by the police, suggesting “thousands of victims are being left to find out for themselves or not finding out at all” about the funds available to them.
Further recommendations included simplifying the Scheme and it called on CICA and the College of Policing to work together to develop further training for police officers on victims’ entitlements and the operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
Baroness Newlove added: “I am calling on not only the CICA, but the Ministry of Justice, victim service providers, Police and Crime Commissioners, police and prosecutors to work together to deliver a package of wide-ranging reforms to the processes for delivering compensation. The changes I want to see need to de-traumatise and simplify the criminal injuries compensation process.
“The review presses for numerous changes to simplify and de-traumatise the process of pursuing a claim, such as having a single point of contact or named caseworker to handle their claim and answer questions, and accelerating IT improvements enabling victims to track claims online. There need to be improved pathways for sharing information, particularly between the police and the CICA. Victims need to be offered timelines for their claim and when they send in vital documents, the CICA should acknowledge receipt.
“I want to see a criminal injuries compensation scheme that supports victims in coping and recovering from their crimes, supports the most vulnerable victims in making their claims and is accepted as an integral part of the support package for victims. We must not lose sight that victims are likely to be suffering from trauma. It is important that this service, which is there to support them, recognises this and treats them with the empathy and care they deserve.”