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Unfair so-called 'same roof rule' finally abolished

13 Jun 2019

Today (13th June 2019), the so-called 'same roof rule', which has unfairly denied many victims and survivors access to the Criminal Injuries Compensation they deserve following child sexual abuse and other sexual and violent offences, has finally been abolished.

This breakthrough for justice follows a landmark victory for one survivor who successfully took her case to the Court of Appeal last year, where senior judges found the regulation that had prevented her receiving compensation was incompatible with human rights law.

The so-called ‘same roof rule' blocked victims of violent crime from receiving compensation if the perpetrator was a family member they were living with at the time of the incident.

The rule was amended in 1979 to allow future victims access to compensation, but was not made retrospective. This has led to many victims of crimes which occurred before the law change being denied compensation.

Bev is a survivor of child sexual abuse who was supported by Rape Crisis England & Wales member Rape Crisis Centre, South Essex Rape & Incest Crisis Centre (SERICC). Her application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was turned down under the so-called ‘same roof rule’, despite the man who abused her and her sister being convicted and sent to prison.

Bev and her sister Jacqui, who was also denied compensation under the 'same roof rule', said its abolition has been ‘a long time coming’. 

Bev said of her experience with CICA:

“It was very hurtful, very upsetting. It was like the law telling you you’re worthless and throwaway, and that you don’t matter. It was like being slapped in the face. It made me feel I’d been turned back to the child I was when I was abused, vulnerable and feeling dirty. It was all very traumatic.

It’s ridiculous to expect children to take responsibility for their own abuse like that. The system makes no sense.

Getting compensation for child sexual abuse isn’t about the money. It’s about feeling vindicated and being able to finally close the book on everything. Physical wounds – skin and bones – they will heal over time, but you don’t ever fully get over child sexual abuse in the same way.”

Bev added:

“The support I got from SERICC was fantastic. My worker was really easy to open up to and talking to her was very relaxing. She helped me develop strategies to cope and the cloudy horribleness that was hanging over my life has lifted. I realise it wasn’t my fault now. I always knew that on some level but now I can really feel it too.”

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:

"We are so pleased for Bev, Jacqui and all the many sexual abuse survivors this anomalous, outdated and discriminatory policy has affected. We pay tribute to the great strength and tenacity of the woman who pursued her case against the 'same roof rule' to such resounding victory last year.

Through our frontline experience of providing specialist emotional and practical support and advocacy to victims and survivors, we know the 'same roof rule' has negatively impacted hundreds.

Not only has it meant victims and survivors have been denied financial compensation that could support them in some small way to cope with the long-term impacts of sexual violence on their lives, but it has caused them additional and avoidable distress and trauma. 

The so-called 'same roof rule' has ignored the fact that sexual violence and abuse is so often perpetrated by someone known, trusted, even loved, within the victim's or survivor's own home. Denying those in these situations, many of whom were children at the time of the abuse, compensation on the grounds of cohabitation with the perpetrator has not only been ignorant but cruel, by implying that victims and survivors are in some way culpable for their experiences or for not having prevented their own abuse." 

Rape Crisis England & Wales and other charities have long campaigned for a full review and overhaul of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS), which discriminates against and sometimes retraumatises victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and all sexual violence in a number of ways.

A review is currently underway and due to report back later this year.

Jointly with its campaign partners Victim Support, the National Working Group (NWG), Barnardo's and Liberty, Rape Crisis England & Wales added: 

“We are pleased that following a successful legal challenge the government has scrapped the cruel and illogical ‘same roof rule’.

Survivors, including those who suffered horrific abuse as children, who have been unable to claim compensation for four decades will at long last be able to get the compensation that they so rightly deserve.

“Following this welcome change we urge the government to continue their overhaul of unfair rules that deny victims compensation, such as those that refuse pay-outs to people with unspent convictions, including children drawn into crime as victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation gangs.”

Victims and survivors who have previously been denied Criminal Injuries Compensation under the 'same roof rule' may make fresh applications from today and have up to two years to submit them.

Further details, including how to apply, can be found on the website.