The government is again putting pressure on institutions to sign up to the nation’s redress scheme for institutional child abuse victims, naming and shaming those who have not.
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher on Thursday said the decision to name the more than 100 institutions would provide transparency for abuse survivors considering applying for redress payments.
“The government expects you to take the steps necessary to join,” he said in Sydney.
“That’s what justice to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse demands.”
It was revealed last week that 51 Australians have received payments through the scheme, receiving on average $79,035.
Another 31 people are considering a payment offer, and have six months to do so.
Mr Fletcher says the single biggest constraint preventing those numbers from rising is institutions not signing up.
So far, 2728 applications have been made, with about a third of them relating to institutions not yet part of the scheme.
Meanwhile, bureaucrats running the scheme told a Senate inquiry their mandate was to encourage institutions to sign up.
This involves emails, phone calls and meetings.
“Some have not received this well and have indicated they shouldn’t be subject to this sort of persuasion,” Department of Social Services deputy secretary Elizabeth Hefren-Webb said.
But the department’s Bruce Taloni says his team are relentless.
“I don’t think we take no for an answer, to be honest,” he said.
“If someone doesn’t respond to the first email, we’ll find a phone number, so we get through.
“We are pretty relentless, but it’s never quick enough.”
There are also calls for victims to be able to make more than one application, as issues arise if they have applied to multiple institutions and some are not part of the scheme.
Applicants can either wait for all of them to join or apply just to the ones that have – forfeiting their right to be compensated from the other institutions.
The inquiry into how the scheme is being implemented also heard from knowmore legal services, who have taken 12,000 calls from victims and now have 3500 clients since it began last year.
Knowmore is calling on the government to provide more transparency around the scheme, including regularly publishing the number of applications made, processed and completed.
Time frames for processing should be made available so survivors know how long they will be waiting for, knowmore’s executive officer Warren Strange told the senators.
About one in five of their clients is classed as a priority, meaning they either have a cancer diagnosis, life-threatening illness, serious mental health issue or are elderly.
However, it still took six months for a priority application to be processed.