Readers of this blog will be aware that the Scottish Government has committed to establishing a statutory redress scheme before the end of March 2021.
A pre-legislative public consultation on financial redress for historical child abuse in care opened on the 2 September 2019 and closed on the 25 November 2019.
The public consultation received 261 responses the majority of which are from survivors. The results of the consultation will be analysed independently by an external analyst, and a report will be published in due course (early 2020). It is expected that the consultation findings will help shape the content of the draft legislation on which the proposed redress scheme will be based.
In addition to the ongoing developments in relation to the pre-legislative public consultation there has also been a review of the Advance Payment Scheme (APS).
The APS, which has been opened since the 25 April 2019 provides acknowledgement and recognition, by means of a financial payment and an apology, to those who suffered abuse in care in Scotland before December 2004, and who either have a terminal illness or are age 70 or over.
The Scottish Government committed to this review at the time of making the recommendation for Advance Payments.
It was agreed at that time that the focus of the review would be to consider the number of applications received and whether the age threshold should be lowered so that more survivors could apply.
The findings of the review were published on the 6 December 2019.
The review considered the following issues:-
- application numbers
- scheme performance
- the age threshold for eligibility
- the application form and guidance
- the process of obtaining a written record showing time spent in care
- feedback received to date.
The main outcome of the review was that the age threshold for eligibility to the APS should be lowered from age 70 and over, to age 68 and over. This recommendation was seen to be consistent with the purpose of the APS it will provide more survivors who may not live long enough to apply to the statutory redress scheme with the opportunity to receive recognition and acknowledgement now.
The reduction in the age threshold to 68 and over is immediate.
The review has not changed the eligibility of the process in relation to terminal illness.
The review has also lead to a revised application form and guidance being published which contains some clarifications and minor changes.
In particular there has been some clarity as to the eligibility around boarding schools, the guidance now provides as follows:-
“In relation to boarding schools and any other type of residential school, the general principle is that residential pupils will not be eligible if their parents chose that place for their children’s education. Some exceptions may apply, for example if a local authority paid for residential places at a fee paying boarding or residential school”.
The review considered the process for obtaining a written record which evidences that the applicant spent time in care in Scotland. This is required as part of the application to the APS. The review noted that the APS Advisers have built up significant knowledge of this area and have developed a network of contacts among the main care providers, across local authorities, and other relevant organisations which will enable them to offer advice, or signpost applicants to specialist record search organisations if they prefer in order to assist them in accessing these records as expeditiously as possible.
There will be no further review of the age threshold and the APS will remain in place until the statutory redress scheme is operational.
The early publication of the 261 responses to the pre-legislative public consultation and following through on its assurance of an early review of the APS shows that the Scottish Government remains committed to working to its adopted timetable in terms of delivering a national statutory redress scheme, while at all times showing its willingness to review it processes and procedures in light of feedback from all the stakeholders.
Written by Sharon Mooham at BLM