On 19 December 2018, the UK Government published its response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) interim report on child migration. IICSA had recommended that the Government establish a financial redress scheme for surviving former British child migrants and the Government's response announced the establishment of an ex gratia payment scheme in recognition of the "fundamentally flawed nature of the historic child migration policy".
In the 19th and 20th centuries, over 100,000 children were sent from the United Kingdom to British colonies. In 2010, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology on behalf of the UK Government and referred to the post-war policy of child migration as "a shameful episode of history and this failure in the first duty of a nation, which is to protect its children."
At the time of its announcement, the scheme had been light on detail. However, the Government has now announced further details.
The scheme is open to all former British child migrants, regardless of whether they suffered abuse, so long as they were alive on 1 March 2018, or they are the beneficiaries of any former child migrant who was alive on 1 March 2018, but has since died. These payments are payable regardless of individual circumstances, including whether the migrants had received any payments from other governments or through private legal action.
The claimant must have been
- sent from the United Kingdom or Crown Dependencies;
- sent by a church, the state, voluntary or other organisation;
- sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or Zimbabwe; and
- must not have been accompanied by an adult family member, or sent to live with a member of their family.
Each eligible former child migrant will now receive a payment of £20,000.
Applications are to be made by the Child Migrants Trust which acts to support former British child migrants in establishing their identities. Confirmation of status and the identity as a child migrant is all that is required. The Child Migrants Trust will begin accepting applications from 1 March 2019 and the scheme will remain open for two years from that date.
Additional scheme for Scottish abuse survivors
The announcement of this scheme follows the Scottish Government's own apology, made by Deputy First Minister John Swinney in October 2018 to survivors of historic child abuse whilst in care in Scotland. Mr Swinney also announced a statutory redress scheme. The Scottish Government states that this scheme will be in place by March 2021. However, advanced payments will be made to those who may not live long enough to apply due to either ill health or age.
The Scottish scheme will take time to design and will ultimately require legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. However, conceivably survivors of abuse suffered in Scottish care establishments who were ultimately migrated could be eligible for both schemes.