Abused children in line for payouts

VICTIMS of historic child abuse in Scotland could be in line for financial compensation under plans to be presented to Scottish ministers.

The independent Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) will this week outline options for making reparations to the victims of abuse in state, church and private children’s homes across the country.

It is estimated that many hundreds of people may have suffered systematic abuse in more than 100 care institutions in Scotland in the last 70 years but under current legislation cases are time-barred. The Scottish Government says it is already conducting a “scoping exercise” on the issue but it would hold discussions with interested parties before it decided how to proceed.

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The SHRC, which was set up by the government, said it would spell out to MSPs the options for making reparation as part of evidence it was presenting to the Holyrood parliament’s public petitions committee. A similar scheme set up in Ireland a decade ago following abuse scandals in mainly church-run institutions has resulted in almost £650 million being paid out, with the institutions responsible for making compensation payments. The Commission declined to comment on its evidence ahead of the meeting, but confirmed it would discuss possible methods of reparation.

A spokeswoman said: “We have set out what the options would be.” But she added: “There are a range of ways of making reparation, whether its through an apology or compensation. It’s for the government to decide.”

In Scotland at present, victims must take their claim to court within three years of alleged abuse taking place. Although there are proposals to extend the time-bar from three to five years, campaigners argue it is still too restrictive for historic cases.

Historic cases of child abuse that have emerged in Scotland include around 100 from charitable homes run by the Quarriers Group and others who lived in homes run by Nazareth, a religious order. A trial review forum – a Time to be Heard – was set up for the Quarriers’ victims last year and although it recommended a permanent forum it stopped short of demanding a compensation scheme.

Helen Holland, vice-chairwoman of In Care Abuse Survivors, has petitioned the Scottish Parliament, calling on ministers to introduce both a national forum for all sufferers and a compensation scheme.

Holland, who was sexually abused in a children’s home run by nuns and priests in Kilmarnock, said: “The Northern Ireland Assembly has recently announced that it is going to run some sort of inquiry-based system for its survivors.

“And it is going to put in place some kind of monetary assistance for survivors, so people who have needs right now, such as because of ill health, can get the help they need. I think the Scottish Government is afraid hundreds of thousands of people will come out of the woodwork.”

She and other campaigners will march from Parliament Square to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, to coincide with the public petitions committee meeting, and expect to be joined by MSPs.

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Holland said reparation was “imperative.” “The legacy of abuse has had a major impact on many survivors,” she added. “There are many in the prison service who were brought up in care, many are homeless or have mental health issues. If there is reparation that will have a positive effect, not only on survivors but on society as well, as they will be able to move on.”

Michael Matheson, minister for public health, and Roseanna Cunningham, minister for community safety and legal affairs, have also been called to the committee meeting.

David Stewart, committee convener, said members could call for an inquiry if they feel strongly enough. “Clearly this is a huge, long-standing issue, and it is going to be a very important landmark that we are now taking evidence from ministers,” he said. “It is a very important petition for us.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have commissioned a scoping exercise to explore this matter, and will discuss the issue further.”