Child abuse inquiry to launch publicity drive for survivors

Plan to raise public awareness in the hope of finding survivors
Plan to raise public awareness in the hope of finding survivors

Scotland’s national child abuse inquiry is to launch a publicity campaign to encourage survivors to come forward.

Chairwoman Lady Smith is expected to make a statement on attempts to promote public awareness when she holds a preliminary hearing later this month.

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The judge, who took over the inquiry following the departure of Susan O’Brien QC last year, will also provide details of money spent to date.

Campaigners believe there are potentially thousands of survivors in Scotland and overseas who could provide evidence to the inquiry, although the number of those who have so far come forward has not been disclosed.

Last year then chairwoman Ms O’Brien held a public session in a Glasgow hotel where she made an emotional plea for survivors to get in touch.

But Alan Draper, spokesman for In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said things had “gone quiet” since the event last March.

He said: “It’s something we’ve been pushing every time we’ve had a meeting with them. People that are interested in the inquiry are aware of what’s going on but the average person isn’t necessarily clued in to the same extent.

“A lot of survivors are reluctant to come forward and apart from a one-off session held by Susan O’Brien last year, it’s gone quiet.”

He added: “What we’ve argued is that there should be regular information updates on the work of the inquiry.

“We’re in touch with 400 or 500 survivors, but we feel there are a lot more out there – we know there are. They need to be encouraged to come forward and told what support will be in place if they do because it’s very traumatic.”
Mr Draper said he hoped Lady Smith would also address the issue of financial redress for survivors at the meeting on 31 January.

Earlier this week the National Confidential Forum published dozens of accounts of systematic abuse in Scottish schools, residential homes and hospitals dating back 80 years.

The forum, which was set up by the Scottish Government in 2014, said it had passed 38 allegations to the police.

As well as sexual abuse, there were allegations of beatings, force-feeding and even waterboarding.

Set up by the Scottish Government in October 2015, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is expected to last four years.

Figures published last June showed it had already spent close to £2m.

A spokeswoman for the inquiry said Lady Smith would announce further details of a “proactive communications campaign to drive public awareness” later this month.