How should victims of historic abuse be compensated? One route is litigation: the Scottish government rewrote the law on limitation to allow victims to bring claims which would have been out of time. An alternative is a financial redress scheme and this week the Centre for Excellence for Looked-After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) published a review addressing how such a scheme may work.
The review was published by CELCIS in partnership with the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the InterAction Action Plan Review Group. The Scottish Government commissioned the review in January 2017. The consultation looked at financial redress for individuals who experienced abuse in care in Scotland, making reference to the terms of reference for the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.
The consultation's focus was on engaging with survivors of abuse in Scotland, as well as looking at schemes employed in other countries. 181 responses were received, mainly from survivors but also from support organisations.
99% of participants agreed that the Scottish Government should introduce a financial redress scheme for survivors of abuse in care. 71% agreed that next-of-kin should be eligible to make a claim on behalf of a survivor who has died. Next-of-kin currently cannot recover damages through litigation in most circumstances. Participants were asked whether interim payments should be made, and 87% of them agreed that they should. The interim payments would be made where the survivor had a life-limiting condition or is in immediate need.
The preferred approach to valuing the redress was a combination approach. This would involve a standard payment tariff plus an additional award for each individual based upon their experiences. Factors to be taken into account include the nature of abuse; the severity of abuse; the period of abuse; and the life-long consequences of the abuse.
Only 34% of participants thought previous payments should be taken into account. Participants thought that the Scottish Government, local authorities, care providers, and religious bodies responsible for providing care, should all contribute to the redress scheme. It is notable that there is no reference to insurers.
The review group have provided their report to Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP. The group's recommendations include:
- A financial redress scheme for survivors of abuse in care should be established by the end of the current parliamentary term (March 2021).
- The scheme should give a combination payment. This involves a flat-rate standard payment along with an individual experience payment.
- Next of kin of deceased survivors should be eligible to apply to the scheme.
- The 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 should contribute to the scheme.
The Scottish Government has said it will give the recommendations early, detailed and sensitive consideration. A report will be made to the Scottish Parliament in due course.