Review of work done and update on ongoing work at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) is moving premises. On various dates between May 2017 and May 2021, SCAI held public hearings at Rosebery House, near Haymarket in the west of Edinburgh. SCAI is moving to new premises just off St Andrew Square in the east of Edinburgh. SCAI’s final public hearing at Rosebery House was held on 27 May 2021 when closing submissions were heard on a case study concerning Scottish boarding schools. SCAI’s hope is for public hearings to resume at the new St Andrew Square premises on a date to be confirmed in September 2021. When hearings resume, the focus will initially remain on Scottish boarding schools.

SCAI’s move over summer 2021 provides an opportunity to reflect on certain work done by the inquiry to date and certain work which it intends to do in the future.

Certain work done by SCAI to date

SCAI was established as a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 on 1 October 2015 with an overall aim of raising public awareness of the abuse of children in care (under 18) for the period “within living memory” of any person who suffered such abuse to no later than 17 December 2014.

SCAI has published four sets of case study findings after hearing evidence and submissions at public hearings. These findings are on questions of abuse of children in care at certain premises run by the Daughters of Charity (link here), the Sisters of Nazareth (link here), Quarriers, Aberlour and Barnardos (link here) and the Christian Brothers (link here). No recommendations are made in any of the case study findings published so far. Recommendations will likely be included in the final report of SCAI to Scottish Ministers.     

SCAI has also commissioned and published various reports, for example and most recently on abuse and child migration from Scotland (link here) and on historical child protection matters (link here).

Certain work which SCAI intends to do in the future

The next set of case study findings to be published by SCAI will likely be on questions of the abuse of children in care at certain premises run by the Benedictines. On 27 May 2021, Lady Smith, chair of SCAI explained that: Those findings were written some time ago and they are ready for publication.  I am acutely aware that there are many people who are keenly waiting to read them and who will be, quite understandably, disappointed at any delay in publication. However, after giving careful consideration to certain current circumstances, I have, with considerable reluctance, decided not publish them at the moment even though I am in a position to do so and, indeed, very keen to do so.  I do want to stress, though, that these circumstances have not been created by the Inquiry and are unrelated to the work of the Inquiry. I also want to make it absolutely clear that I am keeping the position under constant review and as soon as I consider it is appropriate to make my findings public then – to those who are waiting to read what I have to say about the Benedictines’ treatment of children in their care at Fort Augustus and Carlekemp – please rest assured, I will do so.”

Further case study findings are then likely to be published in relation to certain premises run by the Marists and, separately, in respect of Scottish Government in the context of its developing knowledge of issues of child abuse and its handling of calls for an inquiry. SCAI is also likely to produce case study findings on child migration and, separately, boarding schools.

Further public hearings, possibly leading to further case study findings, might also be arranged on additional topics to take place after the current boarding schools case study including, for example, foster care provision, young offender institutions, certain local authority establishments and certain further schools. A foster care case study was mentioned in SCAI’s spring / summer 2020 newsletter, here, with this newsletter also announcing investigation into 4 young offender institutions, 3 local authority establishments and 3 further schools. These further investigations are not specifically mentioned in either of SCAI’s autumn / winter 2020 newsletter, here, nor the latest spring 2021 newsletter, here, but both of these more recent newsletters make clear that SCAI is continuing to reach out for further evidence through a “talk to us” strategy and the spring 2021 newsletter mentions a nationwide homeless community outreach campaign. 

SCAI’s work will conclude with a report to Scottish Ministers. This report was originally to be delivered by October 2019 but the deadline for it was extended before the COVID-19 pandemic to “as soon as reasonably practicable” after then.

Cost of SCAI

SCAI publishes a running total of its costs quarterly. Total expenditure to end June 2021 should be confirmed on or around 15 July 2021. SCAI’s total cost from 1 October 2015 to 31 March 2021 was £43,856,561.

Written by Fiona McEwan, Associate at BLM

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