Swinney promises compensation for victims of child abuse in care

Inquiry judge Lady Smith and Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

BBC Scotland is reporting that the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has moved into its third phase of hearing evidence.

And that the Scottish government is to set up a financial compensation scheme for survivors of childhood abuse in care.

The independent inquiry is looking in detail at historical abuse of children in care in Scotland, and has heard of hundreds of allegations being made.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs that legislation to establish a redress scheme would be passed inside the current parliamentary term.

Addressing survivors directly, he said: “We believe you, and we are sorry.”

Ministers are also moving to set up a fast-track system to get advance payments to elderly survivors “with urgency”.

The government is acting on recommendations from an expert review group, which consulted abuse victims.

Ministers urged to compensate care abuse victims

Mr Swinney told MSPs: “Today, on behalf of the Scottish government, I offer an unreserved and heartfelt apology to everyone who suffered abuse in care in Scotland. We are deeply ashamed of what happened.

“We will progress, without delay, to detailed design of a redress scheme, ensuring we learn lessons from other countries. We will move to make advance payments as soon as we possibly can, and will do so with urgency.” 

The government will consider the design of the scheme in coming months, with Mr Swinney warning that it will take time to draw up the details of a system which is “sensitive and respectful to survivors”.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomed Mr Swinney’s statement.  Chairwoman Judith Robertson said: “This is an essential component of their access to justice. Anyone subjected to sexual abuse and serious physical or emotional abuse or neglect has a human right to access an effective and fair remedy.

“We welcome that legislation is to be progressed before the end of this parliamentary term, and that advance payments will be made to survivors over 70 and those who are approaching the end of their life through ill-health.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry was told that police have investigated complaints from more than 350 former residents of homes run by three voluntary organisations.

Police Scotland said allegations of abuse had been made against nearly 400 people, dating back to the 1930s, at homes run by Quarriers, Barnardo’s and the Aberlour Childcare Trust.

The police figures were revealed as phase three of the inquiry got under way in Edinburgh.

Laura-Anne van der Westhuizen, representing Police Scotland, confirmed investigations had been carried out relating to incidents dating back to the 1930s.

The inquiry is looking into allegations of abuse at 86 institutions, including children’s homes and boarding schools.

Earlier this month Lady Smith, who is chairing the inquiry, published an interim report into Smyllum Park and Bellevue House, which were run by the Catholic Church. She concluded there had been emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and said the homes were places of fear, threat, and excessive discipline.

The inquiry is currently in the process of looking at allegations of physical and sexual abuse at 86 institutions, including former children’s homes and leading boarding schools.

The inquiry, which has cost £15.67m so far, was originally scheduled to end next year but the Scottish government has since said it can take as long as it needs.

From the end of November last year, the child abuse inquiry heard case study evidence over 20 days about the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.

A total of 54 witnesses told of their experiences at Smyllum Park, which closed in 1981, and Bellevue House, which closed in 1961, and 21 written statements were submitted.

Many Catholics across Scotland have expressed dismay that their bishops have not moved to settle this matter in a similar fashion to the Scottish Government.

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