Shona Robison leaving Bute House after she was appointed Deputy First Minister by now departed Nicola Sturgeon.

By Bill Heaney

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison has appointed the Chair of Redress Scotland, the public body which makes decisions on levels of financial compensation awarded to survivors of historical child abuse in care.

Dr Kirsty Darwent is Chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). She took up this role in 2017 having served on the SFRS Board since the service’s inception. Dr Darwent will take up the appointment of Chair of Redress Scotland on 18 September.

There was considerable head scratching at Holyrood and questions being asked about the connection between the Fire Brigade and Child Abuse and how this experience could help Ms Robinson in her new role.

Ms Robison, a former Health Secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government, failed to cover herself in glory there and was replaced by Jeane Freeman, one of the main witnesses in the judge-led Scottish Hospitals Inquiry.

She promised to intervene in West Dunbartonshire Council Health and Social  Care Committee’s decision to close the practice of Dr David Neilson at Dumbarton Health Centre but failed to do so.

That closure was found by Judge Lucy Weiss at an employment tribunal that Dr Neilson, right, was treated unjustly by the council and he is now working in another practice at Dumbarton Health Centre.

A petition signed by nearly 1,000 of his patients to keep Dr Neilson in post was completely ignored by both the Council committee and the Health Board who declined even to look at it.

The Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Act 2021 received Royal Assent in April 2021 and the redress scheme opened for applications in December of that year.

Survivors are able to apply for financial redress payments of up to £100,000, as well as access to apology and support.

Ms Robison said:  “I welcome Dr Darwent as the new Chair of Redress Scotland. She leads an organisation whose main focus is to be responsive to feedback from survivors and ensuring that this important work is underpinned by three principles – dignity, compassion and respect.

“For decades, some children in residential care in Scotland were failed by those entrusted to look after them. Scotland has taken steps to face up to the failings of the past by establishing Scotland’s Redress Scheme, which will play a critical part in its delivery.

“While nothing can ever make up for the sufferings survivors have endured, the scheme is making a real difference to many survivors as it goes some way to providing acknowledgement and recognition of the harm caused.”

Dr Kirsty Darwent, who applied for the post,  said:  “It is an honour to join Redress Scotland and to build on the significant progress made in its first two years. I intend to listen to survivors’ views on the work of Redress Scotland and I want to continue to deliver on their expectations.

“The organisation is playing its part in the wider effort to ensure that the wrongs of the past are acknowledged, learned from, and never repeated, and I look forward to contributing to this important work. 

“I am committed to maintaining the confidence of survivors and their next of kin and will do that transparently, and through our independence, effectiveness and efficiency.”

Dr Kirsty Darwent is a Chartered Psychologist and family psychotherapist who worked for many years with children and families, particularly in community settings.

More recently, she has specialised in training and supervising health and care staff and undertaking research that seeks to improve community support and services. This interest led her to non-executive and governance roles and she has been the Chair of Relationships Scotland and the Vice-Chair of NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

She is the Chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service where she works with colleagues to improve the safety and well-being of people in Scotland. She stepped down from her roles with Relationships Scotland and Family Therapy Training Network on 29 August.

Top of page picture: A team of journalists who investigated child abuse in the film Spotlight.

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