3. Review of the age threshold
3.1 The purpose of the recommendation to conduct a three month review of the scheme was primarily about assessing whether the age threshold could be reduced. As can be seen from the graph above, the pattern of applications at the three month point was dominated by the peak activity following the scheme launch, and a broader pattern to the applications had not yet emerged. This review has therefore considered application numbers over the first five months of the scheme to allow a fuller picture to be taken into account.
3.2 Uncertainty remains a key issue, with considerable spikes of increased activity within the generally downward pattern that has taken place. We anticipate these spikes of increased activity will continue within the current age threshold for eligibility. This is an expected outcome of increased awareness from steps to engage further with survivors and others in the work to develop the statutory scheme, and the expected increase in publicity and awareness that will be generated by the Parliament's legislative process.
3.3 Anecdotal feedback would also suggest that some eligible survivors may remain uncertain or choose not to apply, perhaps believing that the scheme or the timing is not right for them. We hope that, over time, and with advice and support, any survivor who is uncertain will find the confidence to apply if that is the right choice for them.
3.4 Since the peak of applications following launch, a generally downward pattern of applications is apparent from the first five months of the scheme and, although there may be further points of increased activity going forward, we expect this lower level of activity to continue. The review has therefore concluded that the age threshold should be lowered to allow more survivors who are nearing the end of their life to receive the recognition and acknowledgement that an Advance Payment can provide.
3.5 The review has also, therefore, considered the level of the lower age threshold for scheme eligibility. This has proved challenging, as was borne out in the initial discussions on age for the purpose of Advance Payments. The earlier, CELCIS run survivor consultation on redress asked about interim redress payments. Where the issue of elderly and ill survivors arose there was no consensus and very different views expressed from respondents who mentioned age.
3.6 We know from available research that there is a strong relationship between exposure to abuse and neglect in childhood and multiple risk factors leading to lower health outcomes and life expectancy. However, there is no definitive age that emerges from the research, furthermore a specific age will never fully reflect the wide range of individual circumstances which will exist.
3.7 Consideration has also been given to the impact a lower age threshold might have on the experience of applicants and the time to process applications and make payments. The focus of the scheme continues to be that eligible survivors have a positive experience of the process of applying and their engagement with the scheme Advisers and that they receive a service which is as sensitive and timely as is possible.
3.8 Taking account of the uncertainty in applications from survivors within the existing age threshold, as well as any lower age threshold, the focus on providing a sensitive and timely service to all applicants, and the lack of any specific age from the research, a reduction to age 68 is considered appropriate and manageable. This is considered consistent with the purpose of the scheme and will allow more survivors who may not live long enough to apply to the statutory scheme, with the opportunity to receive recognition and acknowledgment now for the abuse they suffered and the impact that has had.
3.9 We anticipate there will be another peak in application numbers as a result of this change to the age threshold. While this is likely to have an impact on the processing times for individual applications in the short term, we consider this would still allow for processing of applications within an acceptable timeframe. A lowering of the age threshold below age 68 may start to compromise the ability to deliver the scheme in a sensitive and timely manner.
3.10 This review has not altered the eligibility or the process in relation to applicants who have a terminal illness. Applications from those with a terminal illness will continue to be prioritised.
3.11 The reduction in the age threshold from 70 and over to 68 and over will have immediate effect.
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