NZ Historic Claims – Government Cover Up Exposed (finally!)

Documents show the Government identified the potential for a public inquiry as a risk, seeing it lose control of a process it had worked to tightly contain. Among the risks were: “loss of confidence and trust in the process; the potential of a renewed call for a public enquiry into historic claims; claimants looking to the courts for resolution… or an alternative process being called for either by the courts or through public opinion and pressure”, the documents said.”

Story from Fairfax Media/Dominion Post 16/7/2015

MSD ‘answerable to no one’ in payout process for abuse victims, says lawyer

STACEY KIRK

Last updated 07:03, July 16 2015

A public inquiry is being urged over the payout system for historical victims of child abuse while in state care.

A man subjected to prolonged child abuse by state carers has lost all faith a settlement process will restore any semblance of a normal life.

The 57-year-old Wellington man is one of more than 500 victims of historic abuse who has been pushed to the back of the Government’s queue for compensation because he had legal representation.

The law firm acting for that group of victims is now calling for a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of its “fast-track” settlement process.

READ MORE: Payout for abuse victims ‘deeply flawed’

The Wellington man, now a sickness beneficiary living in a council flat, said a brush with the law when he was aged about seven saw him pulled away from his family and placed in a boys’ institution.

He lived in state care for the rest of his childhood, passed on between foster families and homes like Epuni Boys’ Home.

Wellington based lawyer Sonja Cooper has about 600 clients on her books who have made abuse claims against the state.

“Lots of things happened in an institution where you had about 200 boys. We’ve had our heads smashed in lockers and against walls – that just happened and you have to get over it.

“We knew it wasn’t normal, but we were all locked up and we knew we had to handle whatever we were dealt.”

It was hard to explain how those experiences shaped him as an adult.

“You’re really dirty on a lot of things because the system let you down, and I think personally I do a lot of things to a lot of people, and the trust is never really there of other people.”

He said the system, then and now, “leaves a lot to be desired”.

“Honestly, my thoughts are that I don’t really trust the Government anyway, they don’t worry about the little people.”

Cabinet documents obtained show a backlog of 921 historic claims has built up. The Government is aiming to settle them by 2020.

Any claim that made it to a court “will be defended”, it said.

One of the payout letters, also obtained, shows victims were told they had a month to accept the claim or try their luck in the normal process.

“It may be that you would receive an offer that is greater than the Fast Track offer… It is also possible that you would receive a lower offer or no offer at all,” the letter said.

Tolley said payouts were based on six “pre-defined categories of abuse” which were reviewed a number of times. Input from Cooper Legal was also included.

But there was no obligation for a claimant to accept a fast-track offer.

“These claimants have suffered significant trauma and it’s important we give them the opportunity to reach some kind of closure sooner, if that is their wish.”

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says historic abuse claimants who have lawyers have not been “shut out”.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said on Tuesday that 401 offers of compensation were made in the first tranche of the Government’s fast-track process and 328 were accepted.

They were all claimants who had no legal representation.

But Tolley rejected claims victims with lawyers had been “shut out”.

“Those who are eligible will receive an offer in the second tranche and planning for this is currently underway,” she said.

The lawyer who represents those victims, Sonja Cooper of Cooper Legal, said it was an “abuse of the process”.

“And it’s a further abuse of our clients. It perpetrates their anxiety and their stress and their disenchantment with the process and the system and for me it’s just another reason why MSD [Ministry of Social Development] should not be dealing with these claims at all.

“MSD [had] retained all the power, with no one to whom it was answerable and no one to challenge whether the process was being carried out fairly.”

Cooper said she was concerned the framework did not account for cases of negligence by social workers.

That included cases where a child from an abusive family was then placed in an abusive care situation, only to later be returned back to the same family.

To date, 307 payments have been made totalling $5.78 million. It’s understood that payouts vary between $6000 and $60,000.

Documents show the Government identified the potential for a public inquiry as a risk, seeing it lose control of a process it had worked to tightly contain. Among the risks were: “loss of confidence and trust in the process; the potential of a renewed call for a public enquiry into historic claims; claimants looking to the courts for resolution… or an alternative process being called for either by the courts or through public opinion and pressure”, the documents said.”

Download documents accessed by OIA used in this report. These documents comprise a letter written by a Wellington victim of historic abuse, spoken to in the story. All personal details are redacted. Cooper Legal asked for clients to write about the impact on them, of the ongoing delays in settling their claims. A seperate letter of offer to an un-represented victim and cabinet documents around the settlement process are also included.

Original story here……

 

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