Accessing counselling and compensation entitlements may soon become too difficult for NSW victims of crime, after the Department of Communities and Justice attempted to sneak through significant changes without stakeholder consultation.
In a major upheaval for the NSW Victims Support Scheme, the onus of evidence-gathering to support a claim would be shifted from the State to the victim. Currently, victims submit a form stating the nature of their injury, when they thought it occurred, whether it is physical or psychological and who may hold records of this. The State would then obtain these records from the agencies who hold them to determine the claim.
Under the change however, victims of crime would be required to collect all this evidence themselves – an action that for many will be easier said than done.
“There’s been no consideration given to the real-world impact of this,” Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said.
“Victims of crime have already experienced a significant trauma; imagine on top of that trying to navigate this system if you’re homeless, have low literacy level or are not a native English speaker, for example.
“For many it will simply be too hard, but the last thing we want is someone abandoning the pursuit of support they need for their recovery.”
In addition, this change was announced on 20 April, just one week before it was due to be implemented and without consultation with peak bodies or victims support services. Following representations from over 40 of these services and the NSW Opposition, the NSW Attorney-General delayed the commencement for two weeks.
Mr Crakanthorp said a two week delay was nowhere near good enough.
“The Government has tried to sneak this through while everyone is distracted by COVID-19,” he said.
“It’s opportunistic and it’s heartless.
“The Minister needs to halt these changes for longer than two weeks and instate a genuine consultation process that allows for participation from everyone who will be affected.”
Mr Crakanthorp has also written to the Attorney-General with his request.