Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Draconian Cuts to Victims’ Compensation wrong

The Government’s cuts to compensation for injured victims of crime as punitive and draconian.

Last night I voted against the Government’s cuts to compensation for over 90% of seriously injured victims of violent crime and for the dependants of murder victims. However the vote was passed on Monday night, meaning that awards under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme will be abolished or reduced for 90% of injured victims from Monday 26th November.

The new Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 will take effect on Tuesday 27 November, so claims under the current scheme will not be accepted after Monday 26th November, or possibly Friday 23 November.

Therefore anyone who has been injured in the course of a crime needs to make a claim as soon as possible.  

I am appalled that the Government has brought forward these draconian and punitive cuts to the compensation that is relied on by thousands of seriously injured victims of crime and their families. I and my fellow Labour MPs called on Ministers to soften the financial blow they planned to inflict on 90% of seriously injured victims of crime.

I am saddened that the Government has ploughed on, regardless of the needs of victims. They forced these cruel and unnecessary changes through the House of Commons in a late-night, last-minute vote. It is a truly callous way to treat seriously injured victims of crime and the dependants of victims of homicide, who have already suffered so much.

I promise that I will continue to put the interests of victims first, but I am deeply disappointed that Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs chose to ignore the plight facing so many seriously injured victims of crime, and voted for these cruel and unnecessary cuts. As a result of their actions, in Hyndburn constituency alone, in the next 2 years over 100 seriously injured victims of crime will see their criminal injuries compensation either abolished or cut in less than 2 weeks’ time.

I therefore urge anyone who has been injured in the course of a crime to submit an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority as soon as possible. Any claim made after Monday 26th November would qualify for far less compensation, and half of seriously injured victims will cease to be eligible for any payment.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme currently supports over 30,000 injured victims each year with relatively small payments which help to make up for lost pay whilst victims of crime are unable to work due to their injuries.

When the Government’s cuts take effect on 27th November, compensation will cease to be available to victims who sustain injuries such as facial disfigurement, permanent speech impediment or multiple fractured ribs. Victims of dog attacks will no longer receive any compensation, no matter how serious their injuries.

Even those permanently disabled will see their payments slashed, as compensation for loss of earnings will be limited to the rate of Statutory Sick Pay – just £85 a week. And any victim who has had a period out of work in the previous 3 years (around a third of the UK workforce) will not receive any compensation for loss of earnings.

These same cuts and conditions will apply to the dependants of murder victims, drastically reducing their compensation and financial security following the death of a loved one.

The shopworkers’ union Usdaw have been campaigning against the cuts in compensation on behalf of many of their members who fall victim to violent robberies and Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett welcomed Labour's efforts to protect the scheme,
“Usdaw are grateful to Graham Jones MP for their support. Thousands of shopworkers and other innocent victims of violent criminals desperately need the relatively small amounts that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme provides. Most who suffer serious injuries need to take considerable time off work to recover.
“The Government’s actions mean that injured victims of crime will suffer financially as well as physically. We believe that seriously injured victims of violent crime have suffered enough and should not have to face possible deprivation and debt.”

1. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority can be contacted on 0300 003 3601 and there is more information on the Scheme at www.justice.gov.uk/about/criminal-injuries-compensation-authority

2. If you are a member of a trade union, your union will often help you to make an application, or you can contact a lawyer for advice.

3. The cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme were passed by 275 votes to 231 on the evening of Monday 12 November.