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The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is the non-departmental public body which pays statutory financial compensation to victims of violent crime. Its performance has declined since the National Audit Office last reported on it in 2000 and it has not consistently met its targets over that period. In 2006, CICA initiated a major programme of reform and has been working to provide a faster, fairer and better service to applicants.

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CICA received 61,000 applications for compensation in 2006-07 and paid out £192 million to victims. However, the average time to resolve a case has increased by over 40 per cent, from 364 days in 1998-99 to 515 days in 2006-07. Over the same period there was a fall of 23 per cent in the number of applications the Authority receives each year, in line with the fall in violent crime over the same period.

At October 2007, there were 81,600 unresolved cases at the Authority and 2,400 at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel, the independent body which considers appeals against the Authority’s decisions.

There has been a reduction in the number of cases resolved each year by CICA, from 74,900 in 1998-99 to 59,100 in 2006-07. During the same period there has been an increase in CICA’s annual administration costs of £4.2 million after allowing for inflation. This has led to an increase of 54 per cent in the average unit cost of processing a case to £400 in 2006-07.

CICA’s processes, which apply in 80 per cent of cases, are bureaucratic and repetitive. Around half of all applications are unsuccessful, the same rate as in 2000, despite work to reduce ineligible claims.

The NAO found that applications from those injured in the London bombings of July 2005 were dealt with more quickly but not to the detriment of other cases already in the system, as a specialist team dealt with these cases and it was easier for the Authority to gather the information it needed to make a decision.

The NAO has highlighted areas for improvement in how CICA communicates with potential applicants, and with those who have already applied for assistance. CICA should also provide guidance that identifies what information is essential in order to improve the quality and completeness of applications and reduce ineligible claims.

The Home Office appointed a new interim chief executive of CICA in August 2006 and initiated a major reform programme. Early indications are encouraging. A new permanent Chief Executive and Board are now in place to drive through these performance improvements.

“The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority’s performance has got worse since I last reported on it in 2000. It is taking longer to deal with cases, it has not reduced the number of ineligible applications and has frequently missed its targets over the years.

“Delays in resolving these issues can make it more difficult for victims to move on from a traumatic experience. CICA has started a major overhaul of how it operates. We look to CICA to make swift improvements in the service it provides to victims.”

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office


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