Over the past few years, PIAC has been running a project representing young people formerly in out of home care who were victims of crime. As a result of our work, a number of PIAC clients have been successful in receiving significant sums of compensation.
Our project supports young people who were in State care as at May 2013 and were eligible for victims’ compensation under the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996, but did not have claims lodged by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), or predecessor agencies, on their behalf.
In June 2013, the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996 was replaced by the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013. This 2013 Act generally reduced the amount of compensation available to victim-survivors, and in some cases, removed the ability to claim compensation at all. The Department’s failure to have claims lodged under the 1996 Act meant that young people may have missed out on receiving compensation.
PIAC commenced this project following two NSW Ombudsman’s reports of 2010 and 2013. During this period, the Ombudsman conducted a number of investigations into the Department’s handling of young people leaving care.
One of the issues identified by the Ombudsman was that many care leavers had not had an application for victims’ compensation made on their behalf during their time in care, even though their child protection histories indicated past abuse.
The investigation also found that there was likely to be a very large number of children in this situation. Given the histories of violence and abuse against these children, the amount of lost compensation may be significant in some cases.
Following PIAC’s success in obtaining compensation for a number of clients, we have worked with the Law Society of NSW to set up a referral pathway to assist possible claimants.
While PIAC is no longer assisting new individual clients, people who may be affected can now contact the Law Society to be referred to a private lawyer to advise them in relation to possible claims. These private lawyers will act on a no-win/no-fee basis to assist individuals.