Following on from our recent blog launching Thompsons 2021 Scottish Parliament Election Manifesto we are exploring each of our demands in more depth.
Our Survivor Team works every day for the justice of survivors of historical abuse and have been watching with keen interest the development of the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill. This Bill, which aims to compensate survivors, has recently been finalised and while we acknowledge it is a step in the right direction it is lacking in several areas and we urge to next Scottish Parliament to amend these areas.
The first and most concerning of the Redress Bill is the inclusion of ‘the waiver’. This a document which survivors require to sign in order to be awarded compensation from the Scottish Government; they must waive their right to pursue a civil claim in exchange for this compensation. Thompsons believe that this is wrong as a matter of general principle and morality. This forces the survivor into making a choice which could see them lose out on full and proper financial justice as the Redress payment may be considerably less than what they could be entitled to and gain only through a civil claim.
The government insist that the waiver system is vital to ensuring that institutions contribute to the scheme. There was an alternative way to deal with matters in our view. An alternative ‘clawback’ system could have been introduced meaning the award would be repaid upon conclusion of any subsequently successful civil claim. Any contribution from institutions would also follow to be repaid. This is the system already in place for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.
In addition to this the scales of payment do not fully reflect the impact abuse can have a survivor’s life. The lowest payment of £10,000 can be viewed as totally derisory to survivors. Even the new maximum of £100,000 does not reflect the higher ends of civil damages for historical abuse cases.
A further issue that Thompsons has with the finalised Redress Bill is sections 58 – 62. These sections apply to survivors with convictions for serious offenses. It is well recognised that abuse in childhood can cause a wide variety of issues in development into adulthood. It is because of this that survivors often turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with their experiences. Therefore, it is not uncommon for survivors to commit serious crime. The finalised Bill does not recognise this and could potentially exclude them from receiving a payment. Thompsons are of the opinion that a payment should only be withheld under exceptional circumstances instead of blindly excluding many with such a blanket exclusion policy within the bill.
Finally, it is crucial that a trauma informed approach is taken within the application process. The process, even for a basic award has the potential to re-traumatise survivors. For the higher end payments, it will carry a higher potential of this and likely, that without proper support will cause a survivor significant distress and trauma.
At Thompsons, we work alongside charities to provide support to our clients should ever they need it. It is therefore vital that such support is offered by Redress throughout the process and beyond. Thompsons take the view that the Scottish Government provides the facilities for survivors to access survivor support services of their choosing without the need to go through Future Pathways and that this support is paid for by the Redress Fund.
Survivors deserve justice, and the new Scottish Parliament should seek to address the various issues within the finalised Redress Bill to ensure that they do.
Blog by Laura Connor, Partner