The Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove (VC), and the CEO of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), Linda Brown, met to discuss the operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS).

Issues discussed

Criminal Injuries Compensation Review

The VC gave the CEO an update on progress of her review into criminal injuries compensation. The review was looking at how victims were able to access the scheme. It was therefore looking not just at CICA, but the roles of the police and local victim services. She was pleased that CICA managers had welcomed the review and were helping provide information to the VC research team. The findings of the review will be published in late November [UPDATE – NOW EARLY JANUARY].

The VC advised that her researchers launched an online survey to seek victim feedback and had over 200 responses. They conducted 18 in-depth interviews with victims. In addition, 28 PCC offices have made written submissions, together with lawyers, an academic and the national police lead. They were awaiting a response from the National College of Policing and MOPAC and have yet to interview the Tribunal and MoJ.

The CEO asked that CICA be provided with a draft of the report for discussion. The VC advised that it would be useful to meet with the CEO after publication to discuss the findings. This was agreed.

National Victim Strategy

The National Victim Strategy makes reference to the CICA process:

“Improve access to compensation

Abolish the rule which denied compensation for some victims who lived with their attacker prior to 1979 and consult on further changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. This will include considering how the scheme can better serve victims of child sexual abuse, exploring the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), and victims of terrorism.

Improve how we handle victim compensation claims. CICA have already introduced new staff guidance for dealing with applications from child sexual abuse victims to ensure that grooming by offenders is taken account of. CICA have also boosted their customer service team, and now offer dedicated caseworkers to applicants in particularly complex and difficult cases.

Speed up the process of securing compensation. CICA have introduced a new case management process, aiming to have a first decision ready in 80% of cases within 12 months, while new digital processes have already cut some applications by up to 30 days. A new streamlined customer journey has also been introduced for victims of sexual assault or abuse that do not need a medical prognosis to resolve their applications swiftly, with clinical psychologists brought in to speed up applications for victims suffering from mental injury.”

The VC and CEO discussed the planned change to the “same roof rule”. There would need to be a change in legislation and the timescale for this change was unclear. The VC was keen to know how the change would apply to those victims who had already applied and had been turned down. The CEO responded that this was still under consideration but advised that any applicants, including those previously refused, who contact CICA in the interim will be contacted once further information is available.

The second and third paragraphs in the Strategy set out changes already in hand. The first paragraph holds out the possibility of a review of the scheme. The CEO confirmed that the detail of this review was still being worked up by policy colleagues in MoJ.

The VC referred to cases of bereaved victims being turned down on the basis of the character of the deceased. This can cause considerable distress and might seem to punish the living for the sins of their deceased loved one (including children who have lost a father). The VC agreed to refer the cases to CICA to have a look at the decisions.

Changes with CICA

The CEO explained ongoing improvements being made to the operation of the CICS. They were currently clearing 80% of all new applications within 12 months. This was a significant improvement on the position at April 2017 and was maintaining the level of improved performance achieved during 2017-2018. The backlog of older claims had continued to reduce in line with operational improvement plans.

CICA had undertaken a significant amount of internal work on improving their customer service. Staff had received specialist training from the charities Rape Crisis and The Samaritans. This had been well received by staff. The number of staff working in the contact centre had increased. Furthermore, these staff were empowered to deal with more routine actions and this was paying dividends in speeding up the process for applicants. The case work skills of the staff in the customer service centre now enables them to undertake some case work and decision making at the point of contact or in other circumstances refer cases for priority action by the casework teams.

As a result of these changes, the CEO reported that they had received positive feedback from customers and from solicitors.

There were now five part-time psychologists looking at and assessing disabling mental injuries, where a face-to-face examination is not needed. This was also working well. Again, the feedback from applicants was positive, the time to reach a decision could be reduced, and the review rates for the decisions informed by the psychologists were low.

CICA has been developing a new claims service, initially for victims of sexual assault, which has been tested with victims and victim support groups. The intention was that only the necessary questions were being asked and in the right way, so as to improve the user experience.

CICA was also reviewing standard letters to try to make them more “emotionally intelligent”. This included moving the parts of the letter referring to legal requirements to a separate part of the letter. The VC welcomed this move.

There was a discussion about the impact of a ruling in the Scottish Courts about a claim about a support charity providing inaccurate advice. It was acknowledged by the VC and the CEO that as a result, many charities and agencies were becoming more cautious and in some cases reluctant to assist victims when making a claim. This was an issue of concern that the VC hoped to touch upon in her review.

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