PRESSURE is growing on the Scottish Government to make interim compensation payments to elderly victims of historical child abuse amid fears many of them will not live to see the conclusion of a public inquiry.
It is thought that as many as 10,000 victims may eventually come forward once the inquiry – to be led by Susan O’Brien QC – begins later this year.
However, there are immediate concerns for around 100 elderly survivors who are nearing the end of their lives.
At least three survivors are known to have died in recent weeks, including one man who took his own life after learning he could not take legal action against his alleged abusers.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie is among those calling on the Scottish Government to follow the example of Ireland, where a number of survivors were awarded interim payments of 10,000 euros.
She said: “People are dying and committing suicide. The Government needs to recognise those who have a legitimate claim, not wait four years for the inquiry. People need help now.
“It’s not for me to sort out the criteria. The Government talked a lot about looking elsewhere for best practice. Here’s an opportunity where they can learn from what happened in Ireland.
“Given the urgency of the situation and that the inquiry will take four years, I would hope the Scottish Government would ensure people in Scotland are given the support they need.”
Alan Draper, a spokesman for In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said there was “anxiety” on the part of the Scottish Government about compensation, with some estimates that between 5,000 to 10,000 survivors may yet come forward.
“It’s a key issue for us,” he said. “We lost two members recently and have quite a lot of elderly members. The reason the Scottish Government is anxious is due to the potentially huge number of victims that might come forward.
“Survivors have been let down for too long. Interim payments are essential and I think the Government needs to look into that now. How do we repair the damage? Survivors don’t want payouts, but there should be an acknowledgment of their suffering pending the outcome of the inquiry.”
The inquiry into historical abuse is expected to be the largest-ever public inquiry ever carried out in Scotland.
However, survivors have expressed frustration at the remit of the inquiry, which will look at the abuse of children in care, but not allegations against individuals.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We intend to remove the legal time bar that prevents people raising civil actions. We are also providing an extra £14.5 million funding for support.
“We are already one of the only countries to have dedicated funding for survivors of abuse. The extra funding will enhance existing services and introduce a new dedicated support fund for survivors of abuse in care.
“We realise how urgent this work is and that’s why we have announced that the fund will begin its work as soon as possible.”