Scottish Government confirms plans for financial redress scheme for survivors of child abuse in care

Scottish Government commits to a statutory scheme for financial redress for survivors of child abuse in care.

Executive summary

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, has confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to create a statutory scheme for financial redress for survivors of child abuse in care. This was in response to detailed recommendations from a Review Group which has undertaken a lengthy period of engagement and consultation on such redress. Full details of the scheme have yet to be published but the commitment is the establishment of the scheme by the end of the current parliamentary term in March 2021.

In detail

The Government’s announcement, in a speech to the Scottish Parliament on 23 October 2018, was in response to the recommendations from the InterAction Action Plan Review Group on financial redress for victims and survivors of abuse in care, which the Review Group was asked to consider in partnership with the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) in November 2016. The Review Group reported on 5 September 2018 and its recommendations and accompanying reports are available on the CELCIS website.

The Group includes representation from survivors, survivor support organisations, residential child care service providers, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Government, CELCIS, Education through care Scotland and Social Work Scotland. The Group monitors the implementation of the Action Plan on Justice for victims of historic abuse of children in care.

Although the full details of the scheme have yet to be made public, a number of commitments were made in the Government announcement, including an advance payment scheme for older abuse survivors who may not live long enough to use the new statutory scheme due either to age or ill-health. The age threshold will be set at 70 and ill-health will be defined as ‘approaching end of life’. This will include survivors whose abuse occurred before 26 September 1964 and whose rights to be compensated via civil court action would otherwise have been extinguished through the law of prescription. The Government has said that the date of the period of abuse will be irrelevant and that it will make advance payments as soon as possible. It will provide an update on progress in January next year.

As to how the scheme will be paid for, one of the Review Group’s recommendations was that all those responsible should contribute to the redress scheme. The Government has confirmed that it will now begin discussions with providers of care services to consider ways in which this recommendation can be respected.

Pending further details from the Government, it is uncertain which of the Review Group’s recommendations on the details of the scheme will be accepted, but as to the levels of compensation which will be made, it seems that this will be a combination approach, with a standard payment tariff plus an additional award for each individual based upon their own experiences. Factors to be taken into account in calculating this element would include the nature and severity of the abuse, the period of abuse and the life-long consequences of that abuse.

Comment

In addition to announcing the creation of the statutory scheme for financial redress, the Deputy First Minister also offered an unreserved and heartfelt apology on behalf of the Scottish Government to everyone who suffered abuse in care in Scotland. He noted that nothing could ever make up for the suffering which survivors had endured, but given that survivors had said that redress was an important element of justice and would provide a degree of recognition and acknowledgement, it was right that Scotland should have such a scheme.

The speed with which the Government responded to the Review Group’s recommendations suggests that it understands and recognises the significance of the establishment of the redress scheme. Inevitably, the eyes of everyone with an interest or involvement in historical abuse in care in Scotland will be on the details of the new scheme, with the next Government update due in January 2019. We will issue a further update when more information is available.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about our legal update, please contact Pamela Stevenson on 0141 375 0867, or pamela.stevenson@weightmans.com.

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