The Scottish Government says it is making every effort to ensure the Covid-19 outbreak does not disrupt its plans to introduce a Bill providing a financial redress scheme for historic child abuse survivors this year.
In the responses to the consultation, there was broad support for much of the proposed scheme, including:
- The purpose and guiding principles.
- The proposed definition of abuse.
- Child migrants and those with criminal convictions should be eligible.
- Organisations should be required to release relevant documentation.
- Individuals should be able to give oral testimony in support of their application (but should not be required to do so).
- There should be no ‘hierarchy’ of different types of abuse. The impact of the abuse should be key in determining payments.
- Applicants should be given assistance with obtaining documentary records.
- Next-of-kin should be eligible to apply on behalf of deceased relatives.
- Anyone who has received a payment from another source (such as a civil court case) should still be eligible to apply.
- Organisations bearing responsibility for historical child abuse should contribute financially to the redress scheme. These contributions should be ‘proportionate’ and ‘fair’.
- There should be consequences for those responsible who do not make a ‘fair and meaningful’ contribution.
- A decision-making panel, a survivor panel, and a new public body should be established.
- Financial redress and wider reparations should be jointly administered.
- Survivors should also be given a personal apology.
There was disagreement over some elements of the proposals. One key area is the scope of those covered. Many of those responding to the consultation did not agree that individuals abused in boarding schools and hospitals should be excluded. Similarly not all agreed the scheme should exclude abuse after 1 December 2004.
A key area of discussion is whether previous payments – for example, from civil claims – should be taken into account. Several respondents argued these should be ignored. Crucially, there is disagreement over whether applicants should have to sign a waiver, preventing them for pursuing a civil court action in relation to the abuse if they accept a redress scheme payment. Some respondents argue that redress scheme payments should simply be offset against any civil claim, whereas the fear is that organisations will not agree to take part if the government remove the proposed waiver.
There was disagreement too over some of the mechanics – what evidence should be required for applications; what would constitute fair and meaningful financial contributions to the scheme; whether organisations should be given flexibility for the timing of payments; and where the scheme administration should be based and what the new public body should be called.
The Scottish Government has not yet signalled whether it will be making any changes to its proposed scheme in light of the consultation.
What are the next steps? The Scottish Government will consider these responses which will help to shape the draft Bill. They have not given a specific date for when the Bill will be introduced to Parliament, but says it will be later this year. At this stage, the scheme is still on track to commence in 2021. Abuse survivors, care organisations and insurers should continue to engage with the Scottish Government to help shape a redress scheme which meets the needs of all those involved.