Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Survivors could be paid £660,000 in C of E’s four-stage redress scheme

THE Church of England’s redress scheme for survivors of abuse will be able to make awards ranging from £5000 to £660,000, it was announced on Thursday evening.

The proposed financial framework for the National Redress Scheme outlines a four-stage process by which the level of award will be decided. At stage one, a sum between £5000 and £150,000 will be awarded, depending on the category of the abuse.

How different types of abuse will be classified has not been released, but the scheme is understood to cover physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse, neglect, and financial abuse — for instance, when someone is pressured to change a will.

At stage two in the calculation, the amount awarded in stage one can be multiplied by up to a factor of two, dependent on whether there are “aggravating factors” in the case. Such factors might include how prolonged the abuse was, or whether reports of it were dismissed.

An additional award of up to £250,000 will be considered at stage three, when the impact of the abuse will be taken into account, and, in exceptional circumstances, a 20-p-cent increase on the cumulative sum of the awards given at stages one to three will be considered.

The scheme is not limited to purely financial forms of redress: in a presentation to the General Synod last summer, it was revealed that apologies, therapy, and support for victims and survivors would be part of the offer.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, who chairs the Redress Project Board, said this week: “No amount of money can ever undo the past. Our hope, none the less, is that this could be a significant step both towards the acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and, however incompletely, towards helping rebuild lives.”

In February this year, it emerged that Ecclesiastical Insurance — one of the main insurers for the Church of England — would not be participating in the scheme (News, 16 February).

In previous General Synod debates, concerns had been raised about parishes’ being required to pay substantial sums of money in redress payments. Such concerns are likely to be calmed by the statement in the most recent press release, that any such payments will be “voluntary”, and that, while parishes, cathedrals, or other relevant bodies might be invited to contribute, this will not be mandated.

The proposed framework is subject to approval by the Synod. It is not yet confirmed whether the legislation to bring the Redress Scheme into reality will receive a second hearing at the July group of sessions.

A Survivor Working Group has been working with the Redress Project Board, offering feedback on proposals, and two members of the group sit as full members of the board.

This week, one member, who is also part of the survivors’ group, said: “Survivors have worked extremely hard over a long period of time to try to ensure that the Redress Scheme will be as generous as possible whilst still being able to help as many applicants as it can. We are pleased that the Scheme is now another step closer to becoming a reality.”

The Scheme is due to run for five years, and will be administered by the law firm Kennedy’s. Towards the end of this period, a review will be undertaken to consider what further redress might be offered.