CICA failing abuse survivors

On 1 October, the BBC reported that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is to be investigated amid concerns it is failing survivors of child sexual abuse.

According to the article, hundreds of vulnerable people have been refused compensation since 2012, on the grounds that they have consented to abuse. Those who were abused before 1 October 1979, and who lived in the same household as their abuser, are not entitled to compensation under current CICA guidelines.

Often survivors who were abused as children come forward years after the event and well into adulthood. Setting a ‘cut-off’ point of 1 October 1979 is attempting to apply a generalist approach to cases that each have complex and distinct circumstances, so it is nonsensical for this to remain a guideline within the CICA framework.

The government commented that “all victims should get the compensation they deserve”, however this is clearly not happening in practice. Survivors are finding themselves in a situation where their application is rejected. If the Criminal Justice System sees fit to prosecute the abuser then why should this not apply to a civil claim? For survivors to have any allegation of consent here does nothing but belittle the harm and exploitation that they have been exposed to.

In July, the government pledged to urgently review cases rejected by CICA. This review is still awaited. The review is one which is crucial, not only in order to review cases already decided and rejected but also to alter and implement the changes that are required to the current compensation system. It should be a priority to ensure that survivors of abuse are able to deal with an effective system which no longer holds them to blame for the abuse that they suffered when they were at their most vulnerable.

The general principle with regards to the CICA scheme is a positive one welcomed by all of those dealing with survivors of criminal acts, however there is some way to go before it is an effective means of civil compensation. Long delays, rejection and extensive preparation appeals are common with outcomes still uncertain; all of which place the survivors under additional and undue stress. These individuals deserve to have their claims taken seriously.

It is hoped that the scheme will commence review in the early new year; a move that will be welcomed by survivors, victim support groups, charities, treating therapists and those of us in the legal profession.

If you’d like to speak to a member of the child abuse team in confidence, please call 0113 232 1030 or email

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