Abuse survivors brand SNP government Redress scheme ‘disgusting’

Survivors of abuse say the scheme is not fit for purpose due to delays and tariff-style payments

By Bill Heaney

Abuse survivors have branded a Scottish Government financial redress scheme as “disgusting” saying they have faced a catalogue of delays, failures and broken promises.

Redress Scotland, launched by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, pictured right, at Holyrood a year ago, was designed to provide one-off payments between £10,000 to £100,000 along with non-financial redress in the form of acknowledgement, apology and therapeutic support to victims of abuse.

However, lawyers and survivors of abuse have branded the scheme “disgusting” and say applicants have been made to feel like “a bullet point on a to-do list”.

Confusing paperwork, long delays and broken promises have been listed among complaints from those seeking to access to the scheme.

Recent data shared by Digby Brown solicitors indicates that victim applications have plummeted while appeals to low offers have spiked.

Application numbers fell from 402 in January 2022 to just 83 in August – while appeals of low offers rocketed from nine in February 2022 to 37 in August.  As of August 2022 there were also 1,167 applications that still had no case handler allocated.

Concerns were raised previously regarding issues of a legal waiver which lawyers say strips survivors of their legal rights, along with few payments being made and a lack of scheme contributors.

A man who was sexually abused at one List D school in the 1960s has branded the Redress scheme “disgusting”.

Lady Anne Smith, chair of Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. The Government spokesperson said: “The restriction order prevents applicants from using their inquiry statement as part of their application.”

The man, who chose to remain anonymous, said: “I applied after providing a 42-page statement to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry where it will be heard in summer of 2023.

“Redress asked for the same information but demanded I write a fresh copy. The time and upset of writing it out twice is disgusting and shows officials either don’t know or don’t care about the way the Redress process impacts people.

“Swinney assured us everything would be swift, professional and caring but it’s been nothing of the kind. All we see is problems, delays or silence and I got so fed up I sought legal advice instead.”

Another victim, who was abused by foster parents, has told how she gave up on Redress after initially hoping to get reconciliation for the trauma she has battled in secret for decades.

The woman, who gave evidence at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry under the name ‘Rosie’, said: “I was taken in by the assurances but I couldn’t believe the utter mess of the process after I applied.

“I was sent away to fill out huge forms and given no guidance and when I did speak to someone I was met with exasperation like I was a bullet point on their to-do list.

“I was sexually abused as a teenager by a family that was meant to care for me.  It took me years to come to terms with things and all I hoped for at this stage was some sense of recognition, but Redress turned it into an ordeal of its own. The whole process is cold.”

However, after launching six months later than originally planned, lawyers say the scheme is still lacking in the appropriate numbers of staff to operate fully.

Over the last 12 months, John Swinney has faced complaints of application backlogs, a low rate of payments and a lack of scheme contributors paying into Redress.

Under the scheme, victims who were abused in a childhood care setting can apply for £10,000. However, if they believe they are entitled to more a panel can consider payments of sums up to £100,000.

However, before receiving any money a survivor must also sign a legal waiver to never take a scheme contributor to court in the future.

The tariff scheme is seen by victims as unfair, due to the fact that it only considers the type of abuse that happened. Yet civil courts also consider the effects the abuse had on a person’s life which is why many survivors can recover sums up to £1 million via historic abuse claims.

Kim Leslie, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “No tariff-based system is ever fair as capped payments stop survivors getting the recognition they deserve while the waiver strips them of their legal rights.

“Those who stand to benefit the most from Redress are perpetrators because the scheme lets liable organisations hide from public accountability all while saving cash as it’s cheaper to pay into the scheme than settle court actions.

“Despite the pledges Redress Scotland is clearly still not fit for purpose and it needs a drastic overhaul if it’s to play any positive part in the kind of life-affirming support survivors deserve.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it is “not possible” to determine an average timescale, but that priority is given to applicants with a terminal illness and those over the age of 68.

“Scotland’s Redress Scheme is designed to be swifter and less adversarial than civil court action, and the number of applications received to date is in line with projections,” they said.

“More than £8 million has already been paid out to survivors in less than one year of the scheme being in operation, with 8% of applicants having requested a review out of 189 payment offers.

“As each application is unique to an individual’s experience it is not possible to determine an average timescale. However priority is given to applicants with a terminal illness and those over 68 years of age.”

The spokesperson added: “In response to feedback received from survivors, the operating model for Scotland’s Redress Scheme has been improved to ensure that applications can be progressed prior to applicants having a case worker allocated.

“To support the efficient delivery of the scheme additional case workers have been recruited.

“Feedback from applicants on their experiences of the process is encouraged to ensure that the scheme is robust, credible and operates efficiently with survivors at its heart.  Practical and emotional support is available to applicants at each stage of the process.

“The restriction order issued by the Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry prevents applicants from using their inquiry statement as part of their application. The Inquiry operates independently of Government.”

Picture at top of page: A scene from the film Spotlight, which looks at the escalating problem of abuse of children and young people in care.

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