Gary Walker reviews the IICSA Child Abuse inquiry report into compensation claims

The Government-sponsored Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published their investigation report on Accountability and Reparations which looks at how victims and survivors of abuse are treated by the compensation system.

I have been representing survivors of abuse for more than decade and was very pleased to read the detailed and thoughtful report. I also think it important to recognise the bravery of the survivors who were prepared to talk to the Inquiry about their experiences.

The report highlights a number of extremely important themes about the suitability of the current systems for survivors of abuse and the bafflement and distress that they endured through the process.

What the Inquiry was told

Many witnesses told the inquiry the litigation process was emotionally challenging and increased the trauma they had already suffered as children. Many felt dissatisfied with the outcome. Some of that dissatisfaction was because their claims had failed but others because they never received an apology or explanation, their voices had not been heard and justice had not been done.

I have heard this from many of my clients who have talked to me about how difficult they have found many aspects of bringing a claim. Sometimes this distress has been made worse by the conduct of the defendant who has refused to admit liability, refusing to accept that the abuse occurred, raising technical defences or simply just dragging their heels.

Many Abuse Survivors want an Apology

An interesting aspect of the Report, which all practitioners who work in this difficult area need to recognise, addresses the internal and external motivations for victims and survivors who choose to bring claims. While it was recognised that financial compensation was an important objective for some, it was rarely the primary motivation. Many wanted an apology and assurance that other children in care would be protected. Others wanted their voices to be heard or have their day in court.

This reflects what my clients have told me. Many times, it is not the amount of compensation they receive that is important but whether it comes with a meaningful and honestly remorseful apology and acceptance that the abuse did happen. I believe all practitioners need to listen to survivors about what they want to achieve through the process and defendants need to recognise the importance of non-monetary issues.

Recommendations of the IICSA Investigation Report

The Report makes a number of recommendations. I am particularly hopeful that the recommendations about securing therapeutic support for claimants during the conduct of the claim will be adopted by all defendants and insurers to ensure that survivors of abuse are able to receive support and treatment at the earliest possible stage and reduce the distress of prolonged litigation.

I hope that this Report will lead to changes in attitude, procedure and statute that allow victims and survivors to be properly compensated in a meaningful way through a holistic and thoughtful process.

Specialist Legal Help for Abuse Claims

Our specialist team at Enable Law will continue to advocate for those recommendations made by the Report and work with colleagues across the country to try and achieve the right outcomes for our client.