New laws about the National Redress Scheme have recently started

The majority of changes made by the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Act 2021 commenced on Friday 17 September 2021.

These new laws are welcome changes for survivors applying to the National Redress Scheme.

The changes are in response to the recommendations made by the Second Anniversary Review into the National Redress Scheme. Read knowmore’s full submission to the second anniversary review of the NRS.

The new laws have made the following changes to the way the NRS operates:

Advance payments

  • In certain circumstances, the Scheme can now offer some survivors advance payments of $10,000. These are early part-payments of a possible future offer and not in addition to a future offer. These circumstances include applications made by elderly survivors (aged 70 years or over, or 55 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants), and terminally ill survivors. The Scheme will make an assessment about which survivors will be offered an advance payment and may not offer all survivors an advance payment.
  • The advance payment can also be made if there are “exceptional circumstances” justifying the advance payment being made. It is not yet clear what specific circumstances this may include.
  • If an advance payment is accepted by a survivor, applications will continue to be assessed according to existing Scheme processes. If a final redress payment is later offered, the advance payment will be deducted from this amount.
  • It is important for survivors considering an advance payment to receive financial counselling advice and legal advice about the implications of receiving this payment. Survivors can contact knowmore for free financial counselling advice and legal advice.

Indexation of relevant prior payments

  • Some survivors may have received a prior payment in relation to the institutional abuse they experienced, and prior payments are deducted from the NRS offer. Previously, the Scheme indexed that amount of the prior payment to the date when it decided the redress offer. The date for calculating indexation is now the date a survivor makes their application for redress. This ensures that the time taken by the NRS to process an application does not affect the amount of the final redress payment, if any.
  • This change applies to all applications made to the Scheme, including applications that have already been finalised. This means that in some circumstances, the Scheme may make retrospective payments to survivors whose payments were reduced by the previous indexation calculation.

Removal of requirement for statutory declaration

  • There is now no requirement to complete a statutory declaration for a National Redress Scheme application to be valid. The application now only requires a survivor to date and sign their application for it to be progressed by the NRS.
  • The NRS application form may be updated to reflect this. In the meantime, the statutory declaration on the NRS application form still needs to be signed and dated by the survivor, but doesn’t need to be witnessed.

Payment by instalments

  • Survivors can now request to receive their redress payment and counselling and psychological support payment (where applicable) in instalments, rather than as a lump sum.
  • The request to pay by instalments needs to be made before a lump sum payment is made.
  • Survivors may wish to discuss the option of payments by instalments with knowmore’s financial counselling service.

Extension of review and acceptance periods

  • The NRS now has the discretion to extend the period a survivor has to accept their offer of redress, even after their offer has expired, if the survivor has not formally declined the offer.
  • Additionally, the review and acceptance periods are now aligned. This means that when the NRS extends a survivor’s six month acceptance period, the period in which the survivor can apply for a review of the decision made by the NRS is also extended.
  • These changes also apply to past applications made to the NRS.

Our free financial counselling and legal advice service can provide survivors with more information regarding these changes. Please call knowmore on 1800 605 762.

The information provided in this article is for information only. It must not be relied on as legal advice. You should seek legal advice about your own particular circumstances.