Child abuse forum should offer justice too - MSPs

Picture posed by models. Picture: TSPL
Picture posed by models. Picture: TSPL
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A PLAN to offer child abuse victims a forum to relive their experiences must be accompanied by an emphasis on achieving justice for survivors, a committee of MSPs has concluded.

The Scottish Government wants to establish a national confidential forum (NCF) to “provide an opportunity for adults who were placed in institutional care as children to recount their experiences in a confidential, non-judgmental and supportive setting”.

But Holyrood’s health committee has previously heard that the NCF “does not go far enough” and could make matters worse if witnesses are asked to relive traumatic experiences without any offer of justice or compensation.

In its final report released today, the committee has signalled its support for the NCF but advised that it must not be seen as a “panacea” for victims. The committee acknowledged the frustrations of people who have heard promises of support in the past and feel as if they have been passing through “revolving doors” since leaving care.

While the NCF can meet the needs of some people, the committee said a broader approach is required too.

Convener Duncan McNeil said: “It was clear from evidence we heard that the creation of this forum will not right the many wrongs of those that suffered whilst in institutional care as children.

“However, it is hoped that the forum may give some adults the opportunity to be heard in a safe and confidential setting, which is why our committee is today supporting its creation.

“What we want to make sure is that the forum is not seen as a panacea. The experiences of each and every child that suffered whilst in care are personal and individual to them. As adults the support packages in place should reflect that and be tailored to their own personal needs. It should not be a ‘one size fits all’ model.”

Deputy convener Bob Doris MSP said the NCF was supported by many individuals and organisations that the committee heard from.

However, he added: “We need to get the detail right to ensure that the forum meets the needs of those survivors that will use it.

“What is also important is that this forum does not exist in isolation and that a broader approach is taken to make sure the needs of survivors are met.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The forum is not a court, nor is it intended to be so, with the advantage to participants of a non-adversarial, confidential environment where they will be believed and supported. To introduce an investigative or accountability dimension into the forum would significantly alter its role and operation and could undermine the value of participating in the forum for many people, and even prevent people from taking part in the first place.”