Child abuse victim’s redress ‘could cost millions’

Alistair Gaw, president of social work scotland
Alistair Gaw, president of social work scotland
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A financial redress scheme for child abuse survivors which could cost tens of millions of pounds is to be considered by the Scottish Government.

A review group yesterday recommended the introduction of the scheme after 99 per cent of victims responding to a national consultation backed the move.

Compensation would be available to those abused in care, with the review calling for the introduction of a combination payment – a flat-rate standard payment along with an individual experience payment taking account of the severity and consequences of the abuse.

It called for legislation by the end of this parliamentary session in 2021, but also recommended advance payments for elderly and ill victims, and that next-of-kin of deceased victims should be eligible to apply.

Survivors of child abuse, many now in old age, have been calling on the Scottish Government to consider the issue of financial redress for many years, but stepped up pressure following the establishment of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in 2015.

They cite the example of countries such as Northern Ireland where a national inquiry recommended compensation payments ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 depending on the severity of the abuse, and the Republic of Ireland where payouts of up to £270,000 are considered in the most serious cases.

In Australia, the authorities have set aside more than £2 billion for survivors of sexual abuse as part of the National Redress Scheme, with the maximum payout capped at around £80,000.

Last year, Alistair Gaw of Social Work Scotland told Holyrood’s justice committee the final bill in Scotland could top £200 million.

He used the example of the inquiry in Jersey, where the average cost of a payout was £40,000.

Police Scotland has previously identified 5,000 potential Scottish victims, although no-one knows how many people will come forward.

Yesterday Deputy First Minister John Swinney was presented with a series of reports by the InterAction Action Plan Review Group in partnership with the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children (Celcis). It follows a national consultation with survivors, 99 per cent of whom said Yes when asked if a financial compensation scheme should be introduced.

The review said: “Victims/survivors who answered this question consider that all those responsible should contribute, including: Scottish Government, residential and foster care providers, local authorities which placed children in care and those which provided care placements, and religious bodies responsible for care services.”

It states that institutions should contribute to reparation packages “in a manner proportionate to the extent to which they are accountable”.

Chair of the review group, Professor Andrew Kendrick, said: “There has been a clear message from victims/survivors and this is an important step in addressing the need for financial compensation/redress. Victims/survivors have provided important insights into the complex issues and provided significant information on how this could be taken forward.”

The consultation was commissioned in January last year and ended in November.

Among those represented on the review group was the Former Boys and Girls Abused In Quarriers (FBGA) group.

David Whelan, on behalf of the group, said: “FBGA seek the full implementation of all the recommendations without further delay, including the advance payment scheme.”

Alan Draper, spokesman for In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said he hoped interim payments could be made to elderly and sick survivors within the next six months.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry was read a statement from Frank Docherty, one of the founders of Incas, who died in April aged 74 before receiving compensation.

Mr Draper said: “We support the recommendations and expect the Scottish government to implement them and pass appropriate legislation, though 2021 is some way off.

“We note the recommendations in relation to sick, elderly and deceased survivors. We would hope that interim payments could be made within the next six months. They have had plenty of time to devise such a scheme – we submitted proposals some three years ago.

“If the recommendations are implemented in full, then this would be an important acknowledgement of the work started by out late founder and president, Frank Docherty.”

He added: “Will the Scottish Government now do the right thing, or will they continue to prevaricate and delay?”

Council umbrella organisation Cosla is among those to have previously called for a national redress scheme.

Cosla said the model would prevent local authorities being inundated with potentially thousands of compensation claims following the introduction of the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Scotland Bill, which set aside the three-year time bar on bringing civil actions.

Mr Swinney said: “I am grateful to the review group and Celcis. We will now give the recommendations early, detailed and sensitive consideration, and report back to parliament in due course.

“We recognise the hurt and damage caused to those who were abused in childhood by the very institutions who should have cared for them, and will continue to work closely with survivors and their representatives.”