Compensation and support for victims of crime - Victim Support's response

Other changes

For many people, compensation can help in the recovery after a crime. However, for some the CICS compounds - not helps - the harm caused. We are very concerned, for example, that the needs of the poorest victims are not met. Under Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) rules, a compensation award is treated as capital even though compensation from this source is only for pain and suffering. This can have serious consequences for victims who receive means-tested benefits, such as Income Support. Under current rules, a victim's state benefits may be reduced if they receive an award which takes their savings to over £3,000. However, the benefits will be stopped altogether, if the award takes their saving to over £8,000.

Victim Support does not accept the argument that somebody should be denied financial support from the state if they are also awarded criminal injuries compensation. Social security benefits and criminal injuries compensation clearly serve different purposes. Benefits are intended to help cover the cost of living but compensation is paid to ease the burdens after a crime, and to help reduce pain and suffering.

The Government has recommended that victims who are in receipt of benefits should place their award in trust. However, it is costly to set up and administer a trust and there are severe restrictions on how money paid out of the trust can be spent. This means that the poorest victims are still treated unfavourably. In effect, the value of compensation as a public expression of sympathy is almost completely undermined.

The Department of Work and Pensions has told Victim Support that 'whilst the government does have considerable sympathy for people who have suffered as a result of crime ... it believes that it would be inappropriate to have different rules for the treatment of capital according to the circumstances in which it has been received'5. In fact, the DWP does apply different rules. For example, people who get compensation as a result of being infected with Hepatitis C following an NHS blood transfusion are still entitled to receive benefits.

Victim Support believes that criminal injuries compensation, as an award for pain and suffering, should be exempt from social security capital rules. In other words, the award of compensation should be completely disregarded for assessing entitlement to benefits.

Other changes:

We are also aware of cases where an older sibling is denied compensation because they were able to leave home prior to October 1979, even though they suffered years of abuse. Their younger siblings may however qualify for compensation because the abuse continued after this date. We believe this is grossly unfair. We are not persuaded by the arguments relied on by the government to justify its continued existence, namely that the rule should not be changed retrospectively, and that the costs of doing so are insupportable.

"'I know from past experience how important these awards can be. They can often be the cut-off point for many victims from the pain of the past to the hope of the future' " Victim Support co-ordinator

5. Letter from Department of Work and Pensions, Ministerial Correspondence Unit, 23 January 2019

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