Impact of COVID 19
The VC asked the CEO how the agency has been affected by the lockdown and to what extent it would extend any backlog of cases. The CEO advised that nearly all CICA staff were successfully working from home and that the organisation was operating at a high capacity.
Victims of Sexual Assault
The VC review into CICS, published in January 2019, found victims were traumatised by having to set out a full account of what happened to them. this particularly applied to victims of sexual assault. Some victims were either put off from making a claim or felt compelled to instruct a solicitor to avoid the trauma.
The VC raised this issue at the previous meeting, highlighting the point that the police provide copies of the victim’s statement and CICA prefer to use this to using the account on the application form. She suggested victims be given the option of providing an account, with those who found it distressing no longer having to do so. This option to deliver an account, if chosen, had to be made available in a particular way to ensure that claimants understood that there was no advantage or disadvantage to doing so.
The CEO undertook to take this suggestion away and consult with service design colleagues on whether this was feasible. She subsequently contacted the VC to say that they would pilot this suggestion to see whether it was feasible and would not lengthen the overall time it took to process some claims.
Two hundred cases were tested in the pilot and the new way of working, where victims of sexual crime were not required to explain the crime. The pilot was a success and CICA would be a “live product” where, victims of sexual crime would in future no longer be asked to set out in their own words what had happened to them. Instead, they would simply be required to provide a crime number and location details and the date or time period. CICA would rely on the evidence contained in the police reports. The change would be available for those who had suffered sexual violence and may have disabling mental health injuries from 14 May, via the new “Apply” service. The question would also be withdrawn from the current application service for those who are also seeking physical injury and other loss claims, until the Apply service can be extended to meet their needs.
The VC welcomed this as a significant step forward and said it would be welcomed by victims and those supporting them.
Simplifying the Application Form
CICA were continuing to look for ways in which to simplify the application form and remove duplications and unnecessary questions. For example, victims would no longer be asked whether they had previous criminal convictions as this information would be obtained from central records.
The intension was to make the application form easier to follow.
CICA was also planning to introduce “track my claim” software functionality, within the digital service within the next 12 months, so that victims could keep up to date with the progress of their claims Again, the VC welcomed this development.
Single point of Contact
The VC was aware that certain victims, those who had suffered bereavement, were aged over 70, had limited life expectancy, complex cases, including multiple applications, and claims which had previously fallen under the “same roof rule” had been given a single point of contact or caseworker they could speak to when wanting to be updated on their claim. The CEO confirmed this was working well and was popular with staff and victims. Staff could contact the applicants by their preferred method of contact, to seek additional information and secure a broader base of evidence for determining the claim. This is particularly helpful in “same roof rule” claims where the passage of time has created complexities in evidence gathering.
The VC asked if there was scope to roll this out further. The CEO replied that it would take some time to reliably evaluate this way of working although it was clear that there were benefits in these types of claim. However, it may not be the most cost-effective means of processing all claims, but she was open minded to extending it to specific groups of victims if resources allowed. Introducing this was complex as the current case management system is designed to support a task-based approach.
The plan was to roll out a new case-management system in 2022, which could enable a move from being a task based to a case based approach.
Same Roof Rule
In September 2018 the Justice Secretary committed to abolish the pre-1979 same roof rule which has denied compensation to some victims.
Legislation was introduced to amend the Compensation Scheme to make this group of victims eligible. The VC had raised with Ministers why these victims would be given an award under the current scheme, which is less generous than schemes in place at the time the offences had taken place, but Ministers were reluctant to make this change.
The CEO advised they had received around 1,500 applications from new or repeat applicants affected by the “same roof rule” and to date, around 40% had been resolved and compensation of over £10m provided. Most offers were accepted at first decision with many of those involved expressing their satisfaction that the crimes they had suffered were now recognised and for the support received from CICA staff. There is a two year window for making these claims from the amendment coming into effect.
The CEO reported that CICA had received additional funding in the 19/20 financial year, enabling them to complete more claims. 81% of cases were being finalised with 12 months and 52% within 6 months. Intake had risen by 6% in the last 12 months and the live caseload reduced by 3%, standing at just over 32,000 at year end. The volume of more complex cases which were unresolved cases at over 2 years old had reduced by 29%.
CICA continued to review their letter templates, to make them gentler in tone, including encouraging applicants to call them if they needed assistance or clarification. The new system templates were going to be rolled out in a series of phased deployments to be complete by the end of September.
The VC welcomed these changes and asked if there were any plans on the part of the government to review the standard payments in the schedule, as they had been no indexation adjustments since 2011. The CEO was not aware of any intention to do so and the VC will write to ministers to seek clarification.
MOJ Criminal Injuries Review
The VC asked when the long awaited MoJ review would be published. The CEO was not aware of a date for publication. The VC will take this up with Ministers.
The VC and CEO will meet again in six months.
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