9 Feb 2015

Delay in resolving abuse claims 'unacceptable'

8:12 pm on 9 February 2015

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse in state care say delays in resolving historic claims are unacceptable and they are calling for an independent tribunal to be established.

The Department of Internal Affairs' Confidential Listening and Assistance Service - set up five years ago to hear the stories of those abused and neglected while in welfare care - is due to close in June.

By then the service will have heard from more than 1100 people.

The service helps victims obtain their records from the Ministry of Social Development.

But it has no power to pay compensation; that's done by the ministry, which says the average time for dealing with claims from notification to closure is currently 27 months.

But lawyer Sonja Cooper, who represents victims, said that did not include the time spent waiting for victims' files, which they needed before lodging a claim.

She said making an historic claim to the ministry could take years to resolve.

"It's another form of abuse isn't it. Having to relive what's happened to you as a child in care is traumatic. If that drags on and on without a resolution, it's just endless traumatisation."

The ministry's chief analyst for historic claims Garth Young said 1100 claims were outstanding - and last year they resolved a record 120 claims.

The ministry said it remained committed to settling historical abuse claims for those in state care.