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A Consultation on the proposal to establish a National Confidential Forum - Analysis of Consultation Responses

A summary of respondent views on the proposal to establish a National Confidential Forum.


KEY FINDINGS OF THE CONSULTATION

1. In 2011, the Scottish Government announced its intention to establish a national acknowledgement forum, building on the positive work of the Time to be Heard Pilot Forum. The purpose of this Forum was to test the appropriateness and effectiveness of a confidential, acknowledgement forum in giving former residents of residential schools and children's homes the opportunity to recount their experiences of being in care, particularly experiences of abuse, to an independent and non-judgemental panel. The evaluation of TTBH showed the clear benefits to participants of acknowledgement and the value of the Forum in informing future policy and practice as regards looked after children.

2. The Scottish Government launched a consultation on the proposal to establish a National Confidential Forum on 23 July 2012. In addition, it organised and facilitated consultation events across the country and one to one sessions with individual survivors of abuse to ensure a depth and range of participation. The Scottish Government sought the views of members of the National Confidential Forum Reference Group in developing the consultation and established the Survivor Stakeholder Group, specifically to ensure that the voice of survivors was heard in the consultation process.

3. Fifty one written responses to the consultation document were received and fifty four attendees participated in consultation events held across Scotland. These written responses, together with discussion and feedback at consultation events, has provided a rich range and depth of views as to the proposal to establish a National Confidential Forum and how it should operate to maximise its contribution to an improvement in the health and wellbeing of participants in the Forum.

4. A summary of respondent views on the proposal to establish a National Confidential Forum follows.

  • Almost all respondents to the consultation agreed with the purpose proposed for it as an acknowledgement forum[1]. No respondent disagreed with this purpose. This general view was reinforced at each of the consultation events, with widespread agreement of the focus on, and need for, acknowledgment.
  • Respondents to the consultation saw benefits for former, current and future residents of institutional care as a direct result of the establishment of the National Confidential Forum, specifically in contributing to the improved health and wellbeing of participants and informing improvements to policy and practice.
  • Four fifths of respondents agreed that the National Confidential Forum should operate independently of Government.[2] The option preferred by respondents is for the National Confidential Forum to be established as a separate unit within an existing public body.
  • A very high proportion of respondents agreed that all people who were placed in residential care by the state should be eligible to take part in the National Confidential Forum[3]. The Scottish Government considers it important that the opportunity of acknowledgement be extended to all people placed in residential care, irrespective of whether they were placed there by the state or their family. It is intended, therefore, that the National Confidential Forum will be open to all of those people.
  • A very high proportion of respondents agreed that the types of residential care listed in the consultation document (in Question six) should be included within the scope of the National Confidential Forum[4]. Just less than a fifth of respondents proposed that the scope of the Forum encompass all categories of care. A further fifth of respondents made a specific reference to foster care being included within the scope of the Forum, with half of those proposing that foster care be considered.
  • The Scottish Government has considered in depth the matter of the scope of eligibility to participate in the National Confidential Forum and proposes that the principal criteria for participating in the Forum will be the experience of having been placed in institutional care as a child, which may include abuse and neglect. It will be that experience which will be the starting point for determining eligibility to participate in the Forum. It is intended that the scope of the National Confidential Forum will encompass all forms of institutional care into which children can be placed, including long stay hospitals and secure units. As such, the scope of the National Confidential Forum will be considerably wider than that of the Time to be Heard Pilot Forum.
  • Almost three quarters of respondents agreed that the process to be followed in hearings of the National Confidential Forum should be the same for all participants, regardless of whether they identify themselves as survivors of abuse or intend to disclose abuse.[5]
  • Over half of respondents to the consultation agreed that people engaged with the National Confidential Forum should be protected from any form of legal action as a result of either participating in hearings or working for the Forum.[6] Several respondents expressed the view that, in order for participants to feel comfortable and willing to recount their experiences, they should be protected and feel able to do so without fear of legal action as a result of what they say during hearings. Several respondents also expressed the view that members and staff of the National Confidential Forum should also be protected from possible legal action in undertaking the work of the Forum.
  • The general view expressed in consultation responses was that support was required for participants and their carers and family members before, during and after participation in the National Confidential Forum. A high proportion of respondents made suggestions as to the range and types of support they considered would be helpful to participants in the Forum. The Scottish Government will be working closely with stakeholders to ensure that the support requirements of participants in the Forum are known and that steps are taken to meet those requirements and that any barriers to participation in the Forum are identified and tackled.

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Email: Julie Muir

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