Sensitive Claims of Abuse in State Schools

A Sensitive Claim is where a person believes they were abused in a New Zealand State school and would like some form of redress from the Ministry of Education. We have a process available to hear and respond to these claims.

In the past, these were called historic abuse claims. 

Eligibility for our process

You may be able to lodge a Sensitive Claim with the Ministry of Education if you believe you were abused (physical, sexual, psychological), mistreated or neglected when you attended:

  • A residential special school before 1989; or
  • A primary school prior to 1989; or
  • Any state school that is now closed (including Residential Specialist Schools and Health Camp Schools);

and

  • You believe that this experience has harmed you in some way.

Making sure your claim is in the right place

In some cases, we won’t be the right place for your claim.

For example, if your claim is about incidents at a primary school after 1989 or at a secondary school and that school is still open, the school’s Board of Trustees might be the correct respondent to your claim.

If you would like to lodge a claim about your time at a State school and you are unsure about where to go, we are happy to discuss this with you. We can also support you to talk to a school Board about your concerns if you wish.

We cannot consider claims about private schools. You will need to discuss this with the governing body of the school in the first instance.

Making a claim

When you lodge a claim with us, there is some information we need from you to get the process started.

We need to know:

  • Your full name and date of birth.
  • The name of the school/s you are complaining about.
  • The time period you were at the school (this can be an estimate).
  • A very general explanation about what your concerns are. We don’t expect you to go into detail about this right at the start, but we need an indication of what your complaints are about to ensure our process is right for you.

We also need a copy of your photo ID.

You will be given the contact details of a Senior Advisor from the Sensitive Claims team, who will help you through the process.

We will search for any records we hold about you and we can provide you with a copy of this material. We will do this under the Privacy Act 1993. With your consent, we can also help you get your records from a school. We are happy to answer any questions you have about your records.

If we are the right place for your claim and you are comfortable continuing through the process, your claim will be added to the queue for an assessment.

We currently have a number of claims waiting to be assessed. We generally try to assess older claims first, so there is some wait for an assessment. 

We will consider prioritising the assessment of a claim in special circumstances.

Assessing your claim

We will appoint an assessor to assess your claim, who is external to the Ministry.

We’ll invite you to meet with the assessor to talk about your experiences and discuss what you would like from the process. We can arrange for this meeting to take place at a location, date and time that is convenient to you. You are welcome to bring whānau and other support people with you to this meeting.

You can also bring along any documentation you have if you think this information will help the assessor.

If you don’t think you can manage a meeting, or would prefer not to have one, we can discuss alternative arrangements with you.

The assessor will consider the information you have shared with them, as well as any other relevant material we have found, such as documentation from the school. The assessor will review all of this information to consider the merits of your claim.

Responding to your claim

We will contact you with our response to your claim. This might include a telephone discussion and a letter to you. If you have a lawyer, we will write to them.

If there was wrongdoing, we will make an offer to resolve your claim. This may include a written apology from a senior Ministry official and/or a payment to acknowledge your experiences. You are welcome to seek legal advice about our response to your claim.

If you are unhappy with our response, you can discuss this with us. If appropriate, we can review our response. This might happen in circumstances where, for example, more information becomes available.

Criminal Conduct

If your complaint is about criminal conduct, you may like to consider making a complaint to Police.

We might want to refer the issues you have raised with us to Police ourselves, particularly if we are concerned that there could be a current risk to the safety of children. We will discuss this with you if we would like to do this.

We will accommodate your needs where possible

We will accommodate any special requests or needs you have, where appropriate.

If you need a sign language interpreter when you meet with us, we can organise for you to have the support of your preferred interpreter.

We will also be respectful of your culture and values.

You are not required to have a lawyer to make a claim with us, but you are free to seek legal advice at any stage of the process. If you have a lawyer, correspondence about your claim will be through them.

You can also put your claim on hold at any time.

Contact us

If you have any queries about our process or would like to lodge a claim with us, you can contact our Sensitive Claims team by:

You can also write to us at:

Sensitive Claims
Sector Enablement and Support
Ministry of Education
PO Box 1666
Wellington 6140

Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions

There is a Royal Commission currently underway to examine abuse in State care, including in State schools.

You will find information about the Royal Commission, including where to get support if you need it, on its website at Abuse in care(external link).

Maintaining your privacy

Personal information is being collected by the Ministry for the purpose of assessing your claim. We are committed to keeping your information safe.  Any information you provide, including your name, contact details, and information about your claim, will be securely filed.  Information you provide will only be used for the purpose it was collected for and will not be disclosed by the Ministry except in accordance with the Privacy Act 1993 and any relevant Court orders.

In a small number of cases, we might want to refer the issues you have raised to the Police, the Teaching Council or a school Board if we are concerned that there could be a current risk to the safety of children. We will discuss this with you if we would like to do this.

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