SURVIVORS of historical child abuse have branded a long-awaited inquiry “a shambles” as work finally gets underway today.
Led by Susan O’Brien QC, the inquiry will look into allegations of physical and sexual abuse endured by children in care dating back decades.
The whole process is beginning to look shambolic.Alan Draper, spokesman for In-Care Abuse Survivors
The inquiry is expected to report to Scottish Government ministers within four years and will provide a “public acknowledgement” of survivors’ suffering.
But survivors’ groups have expressed frustration at the lack of progress so far, including failure to appoint a panel to assist Ms O’Brien and failure to respond to a request for survivors to be legally represented in accordance with the Inquires Act.
Alan Draper, a spokesman for In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said: “The failure to appoint a panel to assist Susan O’Brien prior to the start date suggests incompetence and will only result in yet further delays to the work of the inquiry, as we assume that anybody appointed will not be able to start work immediately .
“The failure of the chair and government to respond to our requests for meetings to discuss the remit of the inquiry and a redress scheme for survivors has left us questioning the commitment of government.
“The whole process is beginning to look shambolic. Survivors were feeling euphoric following the announcement of the inquiry, but are now left feeling that they are being let down, yet again, by those in authority.”
A spokesman for the group White Flowers Alba, which claims to represent around 30 survivors, added: “We’re extremely angry that we’ve been cold-shouldered now for four months.”
The inquiry has called for survivors make contact in writing, while organisations with records relevant to the inquiry are being asked to ensure they are preserved,
Ms O’Brien said: “Today is a significant first step in starting up the work of the Historical Child Abuse Inquiry.
From the outset, I am keen to ensure that survivors know that we will listen carefully to their experiences, and that we will work hard to understand the lessons of the past in order to ensure that we keep our children safe in the future.”
Ms O’Brien added: “Once the Scottish Government has appointed the inquiry panel members, and I have had a chance to discuss the issues with them, we will set out in detail the ways in which we will run the Inquiry and take evidence from witnesses.
“Counsel to the inquiry will be in touch with survivors’ representatives during October to make sure that their views are considered before that happens.
“It would be helpful if all other interested parties made themselves known to the inquiry now, so that their views can also be taken into account.”
Education secretary Angela Constance unveiled Ms O’Brien as chair of the inquiry in May at the same time as detailing plans to lift a three-year time bar which often prevents abuse survivors bringing claims for damages.
Earlier this week, the Faculty of Advocates said it opposed plans to scrap the time bar.
The Scottish Government said work had begun on recruiting panel members and expert assessors to assist Ms O’Brien in her work.
Recruitment has begun for panel members and expert assessors to assist her.
Ms Constance said: “I want to reiterate my gratitude to all survivors and their supporters who have helped us reach this point. Their willingness to recount such painful experiences was vitally important in helping us set a remit that would deliver the justice they rightly deserve. It is also in response to their guidance that I have said that the inquiry will report back within four years of this start date.
“Many of those who have championed this inquiry have been campaigning a long time and I want to reassure them that they will see it conclude within a reasonable timeframe. Getting here has been a challenge and there is still a long way to go, but I am confident we have taken the time to allow the chair to lay the foundations of an inquiry that will allow us as a society to right historic wrongs.”