Legislation and support expansion part of commitments delivered.
The Education Secretary has met adult survivors of child abuse to report on progress made delivering the commitments the government has made to them.
Angela Constance confirmed that draft legislation to remove the three-year time limit on bringing civil cases to court – also known as time-bar – is on track to be introduced before the end of the current parliamentary session on March 24.
Ms Constance and survivors also discussed what further work is needed to fulfil the government's commitments to meet all of the recommendations of the Scottish Human Rights Commission Inter-Action Plan. The SHRC work, which began in 2009, called for:
- effective apologies and Apology Law
- National Confidential Forum testimony to become part of the national record
- a review of lessons from previous inquires
- removal of time bar
- national survivor support fund
- a public inquiry
Survivor groups will continue to have the opportunity to meet with Ministers from education, justice and health.
Ms Constance said:
"Since the publication of the SHRC recommendations we have engaged extensively with survivors and the services which support them. We have worked with survivors to expand and enhance the existing support available to them; to remove the restrictions preventing many from seeking legal redress; and in setting the extensive remit for the Statutory Public Inquiry.
"I am grateful to all survivors who have taken part in the consultations since this work began so many years ago and appreciate that there are a range of views on several issues of importance about how best we can support them. As announced last year, in setting the remit of the inquiry, we have sought to strike the right balance between widening the scope of the inquiry and the definitions of in-care and abuse from the original calls made. Throughout I have been determined to ensure survivors don't lose hope that it will report back within a reasonable timescale.
"It is also important to recognise that this inquiry, unlike others, is looking at physical, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as sexual abuse, and can use its discretion to go further and consider medical experimentation, spiritual abuse, unacceptable practices and neglect. The inquiry must be sufficiently focused to make clear and meaningful recommendations that will avoid a repeat of the systemic, institutional failings that saw children abused by the very individuals who were entrusted by the state and others to care for them over an extended period.
"Through intensive engagement we know that survivors have a wide range of requirements and views on how we can respond to the call to action that the SHRC work gave us. Survivors have told us this is what they need and we are committed to seeing through on the commitments we have made."
To keep survivors informed on how these recommendations are being delivered, the Scottish Government proposes to extend written updates used during the consultations on InterAction and establishing the public Inquiry. Due to its independence, it will be for the inquiry to provide its own updates and engagement.
In 2014 the Scottish Government, responding to the Scottish Human Rights Commission Interaction Action Plan, committed to developing a support fund and commemoration to those who had suffered abuse as children; considering an Apology Law; making the National Confidential Forum reports part of the national record and how the Civil Justice system could be made more accessible to victims. http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Support-for-survivors-of-abuse-119f.aspx
A draft Bill will be introduced to take action to lift the three-year limit on civil cases taken forward by survivors of historic child abuse occurring after 26 September 1964. We are continuing to consult on what can be done for cases before this date, but the legal issues have proved too difficult to overcome as it relates to the application of the law on prescription and human rights concerns.
The Apologies (Scotland) Bill, passed earlier this year, removes a legal barrier to individuals and organisations apologising for a mistake, by preventing the apology being used as evidence of liability in most civil legal proceedings. http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Passage-of-the-Apologies-Scotland-Bill-2178.aspx
A £13.5 million expansion of the support available for those abused as children in care was announced in 2015 and we expect to announce the successful bid to coordinate this fund. An additional £1 million was confirmed for services open to all survivors of childhood abuse. The development of an appropriate commemoration is continuing and is being considered by the Interaction Plan Review Group.
The National Confidential Forum has begun to take testimony from those who spend time in care during their childhood.
An independent inquiry was set up to investigate the abuse of children in care in Scotland. Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, Susan O'Brien QC, announced this week that it will start hearing testimony from elderly or infirm survivors.