Jesus Fellowship Redress Scheme – Update July 2020
Statement from Jesus Fellowship Survivors Association (JFSA):
1. For two years the JFSA has been part of the Redress working group set up by the trustees of the Jesus Fellowship Community Trust (“the Trust”), in which time the JFSA have consistently requested legal representation for survivors, requested input from the Trust’s solicitors and their insurers solicitors, and worked hard to reach compromises with the Trustees representatives to input a redress scheme. From the start the JFSA have insisted that the Trust’s insurers are included in any discussions, this has clearly not been the case. The redress scheme initially put together by the Redress Working Group was written up by Elizabeth Gray-King as a proposal, this included significant changes, following initial feedback from Berrymans Lace Mawer (“BLM”) late in the process.
The JFSA has now had the opportunity of taking advice from Malcolm Johnson, solicitor of Hudgells.
2. The JFSA believes that the funding contribution of the Trust’s insurers, as represented by their solicitors, BLM is vital to the success of any redress scheme. That must be a position common to both the Trust and the JFSA. The JFSA’s understanding is that the March 2020 redress scheme put forward by Elizabeth Gray-King (who was retained by the Trust to manage that scheme) does not have the approval of those insurers. BLM also suggested significant changes to the scheme (the introduction of assessment panels consisting of BLM solicitors not safeguarding experts), and when they ran some test cases and past claims through the March 2020 scheme the compensation calculated was well below the expected level, in spite of some pretty serious harms. We therefore feel the scheme is currently inequitable for claimants.
3. The JFSA has considered the March 2020 Scheme and it makes the following comments.
a) Whilst the JFSA appreciates the work put into the March 2020 Scheme by the Trust, it believes that such a Scheme should be drafted by lawyers with direct experience of such compensation schemes.
b) JFSA believes that any Redress Scheme should be administered by suitably experienced lawyers (to include any appeal system), with recourse back to the Trust and the insurers in the normal way.
c) The March 2020 Scheme was only ever intended to be an outline. It does not address crucial issues, such as eligibility, time limits or scope.
d) The March 2020 Scheme employs a points system, whereby each applicant scores points within a discrete category of abuse. The JFSA has been advised that such a system will lead to unfairness between applicants and may well lead to a situation that a person who is able to list more different types of abuse may recover more than one who only suffered one type of abuse, where that latter person suffered very much more serious consequences. Our advice is that a scheme that works very much on the basis of the common-law system, whereby damages are assessed on the severity of the abuse combined with the short and long term effects would be more appropriate. This is a process that by and large is used by other compensation schemes (Lambeth Children’s Homes Redress Scheme, The Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board in Northern Ireland and the Jersey Redress Scheme) as well as having the advantage of being refined over many years of judicial decisions. This allows for precedence, consistency and predictability.
e) Finally the JFSA has concerns as to whether the March 2020 Scheme is affordable. The Trust has seriously depleted their funds over the last two years, and continuing to not involve suitably qualified professional entities could expedite this depletion. The JFSA is also acutely aware of the Trust’s efforts to liquidate sufficient assets to finance the Redress Scheme, but those efforts will be made much more difficult by the present economic climate and it is not clear when applicants will actually receive their compensation. It remains consistently unclear as to the timelines for compensation payments to be scheduled. Any Redress Scheme needs to address that issue either within the Scheme or outside of it.
4. The JFSA would like to see a Scheme based on successful existing Redress Schemes, with the nuances of life in the JFCT taken into consideration. As claims for redress will be assessed by BLM solicitors the JFSA sees that it is vital for the scheme to include a contribution towards the legal costs of applicants, so that survivors can have the benefit of some legal advice for what is obviously a very important transaction for them.
5. The JFSA would also like to see a Scheme that includes a contribution from the Trust in relation to abuse that would not normally be covered by the terms of the Trust’s insurance policy (i.e. an award that would not fall within the common-law definition of “injury”).
Statement from the Jesus Fellowship Community Trust(JFCT)
The JFCT Trustees acknowledge and wish to express gratitude to the Redress Working Group (RWG) and survivors who, over many months, have invested a considerable amount of time and effort into creating the Proposed Redress Scheme.
The Trustees wish to ensure that any Scheme created to provide Redress to survivors is fit for purpose and will enable those who come to the Scheme to receive fair compensation. The Trustees have reflected on the Jesus Fellowship Survivors Association’s (JFSA) statement and the concerns it raises, it acknowledges that the Proposed Redress Scheme is not viewed as viable by the JFSA or their legal representatives.
In order to move forward, the JFCT confirm their willingness to set up a Scheme that accords with the preferences expressed by the JFSA. The JFCT propose that a Redress Scheme, which aligns with the survivors views, will be devised by a collaboration of legal advisers. The intention of the Scheme will be to enable both common law injuries and the range of harms identified by survivors & the RWG to be compensated from a fund contributed to by both insurers and the Trust. It is also proposed the Scheme will enable applicants who wish to seek legal advice or representation, to have their legal costs paid within the Scheme. The invaluable information and detail stemming from the hard work of the RWG and survivors will be taken forward to ensure the Scheme is shaped accordingly to make it sufficiently nuanced to fit the experiences of those associated with the Jesus Fellowship.
Once the details of the Redress Scheme have been prepared by legal advisers the Trustees of JFCT will need to confirm that the financial resources to meet the anticipated costs of the Scheme are available within the proposed time-frame of the Scheme. They will then need to present the Scheme proposals and costs to the Trust’s beneficiaries (members) before the scheme can be formally launched and commence processing claims.