Legal help for care leavers who missed out on victims’ compensation

Dedicated legal help is now available for young people who were in NSW State care in May 2013, and who may have missed out on compensation under victims of crime laws because the Government failed to lodge claims for them.

Who does this apply to?

The NSW Government failed to lodge victims’ compensation claims for many children in their care as at 7 May 2013. If you were in State care as at 7 May 2013 and you were a victim of crime before that date, you may have been eligible for victims compensation. If the NSW Government failed to lodge a claim for you before 7 May 2013, you might have missed out on money. For some people, this could be a large amount of money. This is because the law changed in June 2013, which changed the amount of compensation payments for victim-survivors.

PIAC has successfully acted for a number of young people in this situation. Two case studies are outlined below. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of victim-survivors. Warning: these case studies contain discussion of child abuse and violence.

Jordan

From a young age, Jordan was subject to repeated family violence. He was physically assaulted by his mother and stepfathers, as well as exposed to violence between his parents. After an especially traumatic incident when he was 12, he was removed from his mother’s care and placed in the care of the State. As a result of the violence, Jordan suffered serious psychological and physical injuries. Many of the psychological injuries are ongoing. While in State care, Jordan continued to suffer violence from other children that he lived with.

The State knew Jordan was a victim of violence: it was for this exact reason he was removed from his mother’s care. It had extensive records of violence against him before he was removed. It had even been involved in some of the court proceedings. But it failed to lodge victims’ compensation claims for him. If it had, he would have received significant compensation by the time he left care. That money could have helped Jordan when he turned 18.

PIAC helped Jordan make a claim against the Department. The Department agreed to settle his claim for over $100,000. This settlement was agreed to without having to go to court, minimising the risk of Jordan experiencing re-traumatisation as a result of the legal process.

Peter

Peter grew up in an unstable home, where he was subject to violence by his father and witnessed frequent violence against his mum. It culminated in an incident where he was sexually assaulted. As a result, he and his siblings were removed from his mother’s care and placed in the care of the State.

Peter finds it difficult to talk about the past, and has trouble remembering some of the incidents. But the Department’s records showed that the incidents happened, and that it knew they had happened. Still, it failed to lodge victims compensation claims on behalf of Peter. Because of the change in law, Peter was no longer able to receive as much money under the current victims compensation scheme.

Under the old scheme, victim-survivors of sexual assault were eligible to receive up to $50,000. Under the current scheme, victim-survivors are only eligible to receive $10,000.
PIAC helped Peter make a claim against the Department, in relation to several incidents of violence against him. The Department agreed to settle his claim for over $50,000. Peter didn’t have to go to court or speak to the Department to resolve his claim.

How do I get help?

If you:

  • were in NSW State care on 7 May 2013; and
  • were a victim of a crime that occurred before 7 May 2013, and suffered injury as a result; and
  • did not have your victims’ compensation claim lodged by the Department (DoCS or FaCS) before 7 May 2013,

please contact the Law Society of NSW’s Access to Justice Team and tell them you want to be referred to a panel lawyer who can help you with a “potential claim against the State of NSW for victims compensation”. The Law Society’s contact number is:

Access to Justice Team (02) 9926 0363

For more information you can also contact PIAC on (02) 8898 6500 or email us at piac@piac.asn.au.

If you are not sure if you fall in this category, we encourage you to contact the Access to Justice Team and to speak to a solicitor who can help.

What happens after I call the Access to Justice Team?

The Law Society’s Access to Justice Team will refer you to solicitors who are experienced in these types of claims, including having at least 5 recent years’ experience in personal injury law.

You can ask that the solicitors be located near you (this will be accommodated where possible) or if you prefer a female or male.  

The solicitor will be able to discuss with you whether you have a claim. Their services will be charged on a no-win/no-fee basis. This means they won’t charge you money up front, but may recover their fees if you receive compensation. You should speak to the solicitor about how they will charge fees.

You are not obliged to use any of the solicitors referred to you. You can always contact the Access to Justice team again.  It’s really important that you find a solicitor you are happy with so we strongly recommend you contact more than one to see if there is one that is a better fit for you.

What happens when I speak to the solicitor?

Your solicitor will speak to you about your circumstances and give you advice about whether you have a claim. You can show your solicitor this webpage or ask them to contact us for information about these claims.

Further background to these claims

In 2010, the NSW Ombudsman found many care leavers had not had an application for victims’ compensation made by the Government on their behalf during their time in care, despite child protection histories showing past abuse.

Because of a change to victims’ compensation laws in June 2013, victim-survivors may no longer be able to obtain compensation under current laws, or the compensation available to them may be much lower than under the old laws.

PIAC has been working to assist care leavers who may have missed out, to obtain compensation. With the assistance of the Law Society of NSW, we have now set up a single point of contact for young people to seek advice.

Read more about PIAC’s Children in Care Project.

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