Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Government cuts compensation for victims of crime


Earlier this month the government approved changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which will see a major drop in who can claim and also the amount of compensation recoverable. Despite strong opposition by victim groups and trade unions, these changes have now come into effect. Any applications made from 27th November 2012 will be dealt with under the new scheme.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a government organisation which considers applications from people who have been injured as a result of a violent crime. The criteria is strict in terms of who can apply for compensation and there are already many restrictions on eligibility and also the amount of the award.  

The changes which came into effect on 27th November 2012 will see many victims of crime who have been injured no longer eligible for compensation because their injuries are considered 'minor'.
'Minor injuries' include:
  • broken fingers and wrists
  • knee surgery
  • post-traumatic epilepsy
  • permanent speech impairment.
The government considers that these kind of injuries are better dealt with by means of counselling and support for the victime, rather than by an award of compensation.

A spokesperson for the CICA said: ‘...where less serious injuries have been caused, we believe taxpayers’ money is better spent providing support and help rather than what are often small payments well after the crime has been committed.’

However, the changes also reduce the compensation available for loss of earnings, which was previously paid at the employee's salaried rate for the first 28 weeks following the incident, but will now be paid at a flat rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay. There will obviously be those victims whose injuries are not considered serious enough to qualify for a CICA award but which mean that they are unable to work and therefore suffer lost earnings. It is cases such as these where the victim will really lose out.

Whilst it is correct to say that the CICA is still considering applications from victims with more serious injuries, those victims will also see their claims reduced by around 25%.

These serious injuries include:

·         facial scarring

·         permanent brain damage

Forster Dean considers that the changes are going to leave many victims of violent crime without a course of redress. This is concerning particulary in cases where the injuries considered 'minor' by the government have left the victim unable to work. However we remain committed to recovering the correct amount of compensation for victims who remain eligible under the new scheme.