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Financial compensation for child abuse

This advice applies to Wales

If you were abused as a child, you may be able to get financial compensation. This page tells you about the different options for getting compensation.

Someone who’s been abused might get compensation for the abuse. This applies if:

  • you are now an adult and you were abused as a child, or
  • you’re still a child.

Compensation could cover, for example, loss or extra costs, like:

  • loss of earnings if you’ve suffered a psychological illness because of the abuse and you can’t work
  • paying for private counselling or therapy.

There are different ways you might get compensation:

  • suing the abuser or the organisation which failed in their duty of care to you
  • getting a criminal compensation order if the abuser is successfully prosecuted
  • making a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Suing the abuser

One way to try and get compensation for child abuse would be to sue the person who has abused you. For example, you may be able to sue someone for assault or for putting you in fear of violence. As part of this court action, you could also apply for a court order to prevent the abuser from molesting or interfering with you in the future.

If you’re a child or young person under 18, you can still sue the abuser, but an adult (known as a 'litigation friend') has to start this action on your behalf.

Less proof is needed to successfully sue an abuser than would be needed in a criminal case.

You should get specialist legal advice if you want to consider taking this legal action. You’re unlikely to get legal aid to sue your abuser, but you might be able get a solicitor on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This means you won’t have to pay your solicitor’s fee if you lose. 

Find out more about getting legal help

Time limits

You must take this civil court action within a specified time limit.

The time limits vary according to the sort of action you are taking and they can be extended in some circumstances.

Possible outcomes with court action

This court action could result in an order for compensation (damages). But if the abuser doesn’t have money, they won’t be able to give you the compensation ordered by the court. However, even if it would be difficult to get compensation, it might still be worth taking civil legal action because:

  • if the abuser is found to be responsible (liable) for child abuse, this is some public recognition of what happened to you
  • if the abuser gets money in the future, they would have to pay it to you if there’s an order for compensation against them.

Problems with suing an abuser

The case may take a long time before it comes to an end and it’s not possible to predict the outcome. Also even if the abuser is found liable, they won’t necessarily be prevented from abusing other people. This is because it’s a civil matter and so they won’t be sent to prison or necessarily even be prevented from being around other children.

You might have to go to court to give evidence. You usually have to do this in public, but you can ask the court to hear your case in private. A solicitor will help you make an application to the court for your case to be heard in private.

You have the right to be anonymous when you sue your abuser. This means the media can’t use your name or identify you.

Suing an organisation

Another option would be to consider suing an organisation such as the local authority if they failed in their duty of care towards you. An example would be if you reported to the child protection team that you were being abused but they didn’t take your allegations seriously and refused to investigate further.

Compensation if the abuser is convicted of a criminal offence

If the abuser has been successfully convicted for a criminal offence involving abuse, the court can make a criminal compensation order in your favour. The court decides whether the offender must pay, and this will depend on their financial circumstances. You can’t apply for this sort of compensation yourself, so it’s important that you give the prosecution full and accurate information about your injuries and losses so they can put these details to the court.

The amount of compensation will depend on what the offender can afford to pay, but the maximum is £5,000.

If a criminal compensation order is made, the court will be responsible for making sure the offender pays.

Compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

If you’ve been physically or mentally injured as a result of a violent criminal act, you may be able to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). This would apply for example, if you’ve been the direct victim of a physical or sexual assault. The abuser doesn’t necessarily have to have been convicted of, or even charged with the crime.

An application must normally be made within two years of the incident. However, in exceptional cases, this time limit can be extended, for example, if you’re making a claim for abuse you suffered as a child. In these cases, the CICA may look at records from the past that the local authority has about your case, especially if you didn’t report the abuse to the police at the time.

The details of the crime and injuries that must be entered on the claim form are very important and if you’re making a claim, you may want to get help from a specialist.

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