National Redress Scheme Update – 28 April

The Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, hosts the Ministers Redress Scheme Governance Board (Board) meeting of relevant Ministers with responsibility for the National Redress Scheme (the Scheme) in their state or territory.

Under new arrangements agreed by the Board, institutions named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse or in an application received by the Scheme must provide a clear written statement setting out their intention to join the Scheme by no later than 30 June 2020.

These institutions will be expected to join as soon as possible, but no later than 31 December 2020. This additional time reflects the maximum time needed to complete the on-boarding process and recognises the changed capacity of many institutions due to the effects COVID-10.

If by 30 June 2020 any of these institutions has failed to signify its intention to join the Scheme, it will immediately be publicly identified and jurisdictions will consider “appropriate action”. This may include financial sanctions applied by state, territory or Commonwealth governments, and changes to an organisation’s charitable status. The Victorian Government has already announced that such institutions “risk losing government funding”.

The Board also determined that where the Scheme receives an application naming a non-participating institution after the 30 June 2020 deadline, the Scheme will contact the institution and the institution will be given six months to join. Should that institution fail to join the Scheme within the six months, the institution will be publicly identified by the Scheme in accordance with Scheme legislation, and jurisdictions may apply other appropriate sanctions.

In addition, institutions that are already participating in the Scheme will be allowed to add additional institutions to their participating groups after the 30 June 2020 deadline.

As indicated in our Briefing, Christian Schools Australia Limited has become a participating institution despite not being aware of any incidents of abuse relating to our activities after appropriate protection against any financial liabilities were put in place.

We understand, as outlined in our previous Briefings, that the decision as to whether to participate in the Scheme is a difficult one.  Christian schools have a long history of being at the forefront of child protection reforms, reflected in both our submissions to various Governments and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse itself.

The absence of clear insurance arrangements around the Redress Scheme has been, however, a significant stumbling block for Christian schools operating as independent legal entities.  While insurance for Court awarded compensation claims has historically been available for schools this type of cover generally does not provide protection for payments under the Redress Scheme.

Before determining to participate many school boards have needed to weigh up whether the school has sufficient financial capacity to meet any potential liabilities or has insurance arrangements in place to provide cover for any payments under the Scheme.  It would be a terrible for claimants under the Scheme if a participating institution unable to meet its Scheme responsibilities.  Where schools are operating as the ministry of a local church this may further complicate consideration by a school board as the denomination may have arrangements in place to participate on a group basis.

We would certainly encourage any Christian school named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse or in an application received by the Scheme to endeavour to put in place the necessary capability to participate in the Scheme.  Equally, should a subsequent application be made, which may never have been anticipated, and the school notified to a school we would encourage the school to participate in the Scheme.  This is consistent with the expectations of the Commonwealth and State/Territory governments.

As it is highly unlikely that a school would be able to secure insurance coverage after an application was made, this expectation of participation by governments effectively means that schools should strongly consider ensuring appropriate financial protections, insurance or reserves, are in place to deal with any potential application as soon as possible

Further information can be found in our previous briefings –