Greg Smith, NSW Attorney-General, is considering abolishing some types of compensation for victims of crime in a bid to cut costs.
Mr Smith said “we want the scheme to provide prompt and practical financial support for victims of crime rather than being a drawn-out process that delivers lump sum payments to people long after their injuries have been treated”.
Laurie Glanfield, Director General of the Justice Department, said that the tribunal faced a backlog of 21,911 claims in 2011-12 and that it is currently over $350 million in the red.
It is important that whatever changes are made to the Crime Compensation Scheme that victims are not further disadvantaged. The Victim’s Charter states that victims should be treated with respect and dignity and any changes should increase the amount of financial compensation awarded to victims, which is already very minimal. Any reduction in crime compensation to victims of crime will result in further traumatizing victims.
We should not forget that crime compensation is an insurance scheme funded by all tax payers. Like any other insurance scheme we hope that we never need to use it but when we do we need to know that it will provide adequate cover. If our motor vehicle or property insurance company attempted to reduce benefits while still maintaining or increasing policy costs we would certainly be complaining, as I am sure that the government would also be complaining, calling upon such insurance companies to do the right thing.
Crime Compensation only places a minimal expense on the justice system budget and it is quite possible that savings that need to be made could be made in other areas rather than in this important tax payer funded insurance scheme.
Alternatively government should consider raising revenue in other ways to add further funding to the crime compensation scheme such as placing a significant financial levy on each offender which would go back to the victims via the crime compensation scheme. Such schemes do already exist but are not taken seriously or appropriately enforced by the justice system.
Crime Compensation is a very important and very cost effective insurance scheme. Any changes to the scheme should be aimed at increasing the amount of financial compensation awarded to victims rather than reducing it.
While counselling is very important in certain cases for most victims the amount of financial compensation they receive, together with reimbursing their out of pocket expenses, is often far more important to allow the victim to reclaim their quality of life and aid recovery.
In Victoria the state government has recently budgeted a further $17 Million for state government victims counselling services with the majority of that money going to administration costs as well as to unnecessary counselling. Very little of this money will actually be received by crime victims in any meaningful way. It is very important that NSW does not make the same mistakes.
Whatever changes Greg Smith ultimately decides upon enhancing the financial assistance awarded to victims of crime should be paramount. Any reduction to these payments as a trade of for any other nebulous services should be vehemently rejected.
Victims of crime have been harmed enough and they should not be subjected to any further hardship.
For victims of crime support and advice call 1800 000 055 or go to www.victimsofcrime.com.au