Survivors of terror attacks in the UK have described the government’s compensation scheme as “broken” in a new report.
More than 130 survivors from 11 attacks were surveyed by support network Survivors Against Terror.
Respondents included survivors from the Fishmonger’s Hall stabbings in London in 2019, and the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.
A government spokesperson said “we know more must be done” to address needs.
More than two-thirds of survey respondents said they felt the scheme was “unfair and unreasonable”.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has been in place since the 1990s, and handles claims from people who have suffered physical or mental injuries as a result of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Justice.
More than half of survivors surveyed said they felt unable to speak to someone from CICA for help and some 60% did not feel it was easy to submit their compensation claim – and that the information provided by CICA was unclear or not easy to understand.
Of the survivors asked, 62% did not feel treated with respect and empathy, compared with 17% who felt they were.
In 2019, the government committed to a new Survivors’ Charter which would guarantee rights for survivors to mental health and legal support, something Survivors Against Terror said has not happened.
Some members said they were still waiting for compensation, with one reporting that their file had been lost.
Joanne McSorley, who was hit by 31 pieces of shrapnel in the Manchester Arena bombing, told the BBC that she had been “degraded” by being repeatedly told to prove the severity of her injuries.
She said she had been offered £25,000 after a process that took six years.
“I am housebound, really. I can’t even put my own shoes on, or my coat. It is a life that’s very, very different,” she said.
“I put my faith in the systems and in the government. This was a terror attack, so I thought, well of course we’ll be looked after. But that didn’t happen.
“I feel totally degraded by the process because you’re having to prove all the time you are still in that state.
She added that she had to give up her job at a local primary school, “I loved it. I was a busy, working mum. A full life. And now, I feel like I’m just existing. I feel like I am being punished.
“I don’t think you should have to apply for something. It should just be there,” she said. “No one has got in touch to ask me ‘How are you?’ They don’t care. It’s just not fair. No one cares.
Darryn Frost, who used a narwhal tusk to fend off a terror attacker in Fishmongers Hall in 2019 and was involved in the survivors’ survey, told the BBC that the CICA system was broken.
“It’s a paper-based postal system, where you’re in total darkness, you don’t know where you are in the process,” he said. “And they keep asking for more evidence. You feel like you’re on trial or scrounging.”
Mr Frost said he experienced “over a year of total silence” from CICA and that the only “proactive” contact he had came in a phone call after he had appeared on the BBC in November.
He added that the government response to the survey was a “disgrace”.
“We’re quite clear about the things that are failing. It’s really not rocket science. This is how terrorists win – when we see that our own country can’t look after our people.”
The report calls for a new compensation authority to be overseen by the Home Office with greater transparency in how awards are calculated and an ability to track them online.
A government spokesperson said it was “right survivors get the support they need, including through the publicly-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme that has paid out more than £158 million to victims of violent crime in the last year alone”.
They added: “But we know more must be done, which is why the government is reviewing the support available, to better address victims’ needs.”
It said this included £4.6 million for victims of terrorism since 2017.
The government said 836 of the 859 applications in connection with the Manchester Arena bombing had been finalised, with 436 of the bereaved or injured receiving criminal injuries compensation.
Brendan Cox, who co-founded Survivors Against Terror after his wife, Labour MP Jo Cox, was killed by a far-right extremist in 2016, said: “An organisation that is supposed to be helping survivors recover and rebuild is instead consistently doing them harm.
“If the organisation had poor processes and procedures but scored well on other areas, there would be hope for reform. There is not.”