The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has announced plans for hearing further evidence in 2019 and 2020. In chronological order, SCAI plans to:
- By late 2019 – complete evidence for the presently ongoing Phase 4 hearings on child care establishments run by male religious orders.
- Before the end of 2019 – start Phase 5 hearings on child abuse arising in child migration programmes. SCAI has, in fact, already taken evidence by video link from Australia on 21 and 23 January and 25 March 2019 from three witnesses whose evidence is relevant to this phase.
- Spring 2020 – return to complete Phase 1. This phase is on the background and context to SCAI’s work including the history and governance of institutions and expert evidence on the legislative and regulatory framework for children in care.
- Summer 2020 – start Phase 6 hearings on provision at 7 Scottish boarding schools. Details of these schools can be seen on SCAI’s webpage here.
SCAI has also indicated an intention to investigate foster care. The current plan is for evidence to be heard on that, presumably at a Phase 7, around the end of 2020.
Separately, a call has been made by a traveller rights activist for SCAI to open up a new phase focussing on the experience of Scottish child travellers. It remains unknown whether SCAI’s work will be specifically extended for that, with previous calls to extend the remit of the Inquiry (to non-residential care) not having been implemented by the Scottish Government. It is also worth emphasising that SCAI is investigating the abuse of children in care, including children whose care was arranged in Scotland. Scottish child travellers who were in care or had their care arranged in Scotland are, therefore, already covered by SCAI’s remit.
When it was set up in October 2015, SCAI was tasked with reporting to Scottish Government by October 2019. The timescale has been extended to “as soon as reasonably practicable” after then. To date, SCAI has produced two sets of findings, both of which are on evidence heard at Phase 2. No recommendations have yet been published. With evidence now scheduled to run at least until the end of 2020, it may be some considerable time yet before SCAI’s work is done.
Frank Hughes, partner and Fiona McEwan, associate