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Concerns half a billion dollars needed for abuse in care redress inquiry for CSA victims in NEW ZEALAND



Lawyers for survivors of abuse in care say redress will cost the Government at least half a billion dollars, but there was no money set aside for an independent redress scheme in this year's Budget.

It is estimated more than 250,000 people have been abused in state and faith-based care in New Zealand.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating this abuse has passed recommendations to Government, with a final report due this month.

The inquiry, which began in 2018, is the largest and most complex in New Zealand history - with nearly $170 million in funding so far.

An official apology and an independent redress scheme are expected as part of the Crown response, but lawyers for survivors are concerned about budgeting.

Cooper Legal senior associate Lydia Oosterhoff is one of them.

"There's going to need to be an initial investment of at least half a billion dollars... and it's not only for compensation, we need wraparound services," she told 1News.

She said clients hoped for "acknowledgement and support to help them rebuild their lives - they've often been shattered by this abuse".

Cooper Legal principal partner Sonja Cooper said the ripple effects of abuse in Aotearoa could not be underestimated as many survivors are still coming forward for help for the first time.

"We are having at least a new client come to us every day at least if not more."

Royal Commission chair Coral Shaw has referred to 'puretumu torowhānui' instead of redress, "to describe the wider wellbeing approach" needed to help survivors.

This could include support to access records, reconnection with whakapapa, help with housing, counselling and addiction rehabilitation.

Cooper Legal senior associate Lydia Oosterhoff is one of them.

"There's going to need to be an initial investment of at least half a billion dollars... and it's not only for compensation, we need wraparound services," she told 1News.

She said clients hoped for "acknowledgement and support to help them rebuild their lives - they've often been shattered by this abuse".

Cooper Legal principal partner Sonja Cooper said the ripple effects of abuse in Aotearoa could not be underestimated as many survivors are still coming forward for help for the first time.

"We are having at least a new client come to us every day at least if not more."

Royal Commission chair Coral Shaw has referred to 'puretumu torowhānui' instead of redress, "to describe the wider wellbeing approach" needed to help survivors.

This could include support to access records, reconnection with whakapapa, help with housing, counselling and addiction rehabilitation.

Cooper Legal's $500 million estimate for redress services and compensation is partly based on comparative schemes overseas.

Redress expert Stephen Winter has paid close attention to the Australian scheme for abuse survivors.

"The total cost is well over a billion Australian dollars now," said the University of Auckland associate professor.

He feels New Zealand's inquiry process and Crown response should have been faster.

"It has taken too long .... Many survivors have died whilst waiting for this programme to be built and it's really urgent that the government moves quickly."

Survivor Tu Chapman (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Taranaki) wants the inquiry response to deliver more than just money.

"Someone to just say 'we're sorry'. They're the easiest words that could ever possibly be developed but probably the hardest to actually convey."

While the past six years have been a long process, she said: "I have lived this since, pretty much the day I was born and will continue to live as a survivor until the day I die."

The Government told 1News it was unable to discuss figures for an independent redress scheme at this stage.

Internal Affairs Minister Brooke Van Velden said: "My heart really goes out to any of the survivors, firstly as victims but secondly going through this process with the inquiry. I know that for a number it has been traumatising."

She said responding to the inquiry findings was "top of mind for government and we don't wish to drag out any process."

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