Story from Gisborne Herald,
10 Dec 2014
A man abused as a ward of the state 25 years ago is incensed about the $12,000 compensation offer made to him, and the process used by the Ministry of Social Development.
The 40-year-old Gisborne man has been dealing with the ministry’s historic claims resolution process for the past five years and has gone into their fast-track process, which began late last month.
Upon settlement, claimants receive prompt financial payment and a letter of apology.
The man said the $12,000 offer worked out to be the equivalent of $480 a year over the past 25 years.
“Do you know how that makes me feel? It’s a kick in the guts,” he said as he struggled to hold back tears.
“I received a [fast track] letter dated May 29 and I have a month to make up my mind.
“Where’s the justice?”
He had suffered from stress and depression from the effects of his suffering over 25 years, he said.
The anguish had led him to make bad decisions in his life.
He has a legal document that shows a Family Court judge in Hawke’s Bay sentenced him into care in what he says was a breach of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act by bypassing a family group conference.
He has other issues with the ministry.
His own son was abused while in state care in 2010 and 2011, he says.
As a result, his son ran away with two other abused victims.
But against family wishes, he had been placed back in the same institution.
“There was no investigation. My son was victimised.
“I don’t want my son to go through the same crap as me, so that he has to go through an historic claims process in 25 years.”
He has no confidence in the ministry.
The man said he did not consider the offer to be genuine compensation.
He did not want to accept the offer but he had a large family to support.
“I want that $12,000 … but I don’t want it.”
The ministry has received 1572 claims since 2004 and 583 have been resolved, with payouts totalling $8.4 million.
The average time taken to resolve a claim is 27 months, while 207 claims have been in the system for more than five years. There are 862 people eligible for the faster settlement process.
The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service has provided support services to more than 700 people as part of the historic claims process.
Close to $1.9 million in funding over two years will enable the ministry to support the service.
The Government aims to settle all historic claims by 2020 for those who came into state care before December 31, 1992.
The man said the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service was too close to the Ministry and lacked independence.
He has declined to be represented by Cooper Legal, a law firm representing hundreds of people abused as children in Social Welfare care.
Sonja Cooper, principal of Cooper Legal, said hundreds of claimants were subject to settlement processes that were inconsistent, biased and harmful to the wellbeing of the people they are intended to serve.
“The historic claims team does not have the statutory powers of the UK Inquiry,” she said.
“It is not independent or impartial, and turns a blind eye to what was, and remains, a system where children were subjected to systemic physical and sexual abuse.”
Ms Cooper said historic claims team interviewers were telling abuse victims that they believed the victims’ accounts of physical or sexual abuse – only for the Ministry to write to the victim later and tell them that their allegations of abuse were not accepted.
“It is hard for a victim to accept that one part of Government can apologise for abuse perpetrated on them, and another part of Government denies that it ever happened,” said Ms Cooper.