In the morning of 19 August 2020 the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament considered, in private, its approach to the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill. This committee will be scrutinising the bill at Stage 1 of the three stage Scottish legislative process. That afternoon, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP, delivered a statement in the parliament’s chamber on the bill and took questions on it.
In the most general of terms, broad political consensus emerged for the fundamental aim of the bill – to address some of the wrongs of the past in a meaningful and survivor-centred way. Cross-party support also emerged for Scottish Government’s intention for the bill to complete all three legislative stages before dissolution of the current fifth session of the Scottish Parliament in March 2021 when all bills not through all three stages will fall but could be re-introduced when the sixth session convenes after the 6 May 2021 Scottish election. Mr Swinney assured the parliament that work continues both to try to secure “fair and meaningful contributions” from relevant organisations to the estimated £408m cost of the scheme and to plan for the creation of a new independent body, Redress Scotland, which is to administer the proposed statutory scheme. He also confirmed Scottish Government’s intention to bring the statutory scheme into operation “as soon as possible” after the legislation is enacted.
At 101 sections and two schedules spanning 70 pages, the in-care redress bill is a relatively long and detailed one. By way of contrast, the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 which retrospectively abolished the civil litigation three year time-bar limitation period for personal injury claims arising from childhood abuse comprises 3 sections on 3 pages. The limitation abolition bill took 7 months to complete its legislative passage through the Scottish Parliament. The current in-care redress bill has roughly the same time in which to do so but it is worth noting – in addition to the length of the bill and the impending election – that the parliament continues to deal with significant Brexit and, separately, COVID-19 related legislation among other bills and parliamentary business. The scale of the challenge now ahead of the parliament was underlined in the 19 August 2020 question and answer session when, following searching questions on the proposed interaction between a claim for statutory redress and a claim for compensation in Scotland’s civil courts, the interaction between a successful redress claim and a recipient’s rights to welfare benefits and on the funding arrangements, Mr Swinney made clear that “The terms of the bill are there for amendment – every single word of them.” A link to the Official Report of the Scottish Parliament for 19 August 2020 which includes – at columns 31 to 42 – a full transcript of the ministerial statement and question and answer session is here.
With the caveat in mind that the bill may be amended during its legislative passage, the bill as introduced:
- applies to those who were abused as children (under 18) in relevant residential care settings before 1 December 2004;
- allows survivors to apply for a fixed rate redress payment of £10,000 or an individually assessed payment of £20,000, £40,000 or £80,000, based on a more detailed examination of their experience;
- allows next of kin of relevant deceased persons to apply for a redress payment of £10,000 where that person died on or after 17 November 2016.
- requires a recipient of a statutory redress payment to waive their right to seek compensation in a Scottish civil court.
The Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament will now start scrutiny of the bill at Stage 1. Part of this scrutiny may include a call for evidence, written and / or oral, or a call for views.
Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate