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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.


INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND TO THE CONSULTATION

The SurvivorScotland Strategy

5. SurvivorScotland, the National Strategy for Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse,[7] was launched by the Scottish Government in September 2005. The Strategy includes all adult survivors of childhood abuse, including people abused in care as children. The Strategy has different elements, including the funding of services for adult survivors of childhood abuse; training for professionals; and measures to increase public awareness of childhood abuse. Since 2007, the Scottish Government has provided £5.1 million to support the design and delivery of services for survivors of childhood abuse in a number of priority areas including: services in rural and remote areas; mental health needs; complex trauma; learning disability; minority ethnic issues; and work in prisons.

The 'Time to be Heard' Pilot Forum

6. In 2005, the Scottish Government commissioned a review of the systems of laws, rules and regulations that governed residential schools and children's homes between 1950 and 1995.[8] The conclusions contained in that Review note the need for former residents to "have their experiences as a child in a residential establishment heard and recorded as a means of acknowledging and believing what they need to tell".[9]

7. In 2009, the Scottish Ministers announced that a Pilot Forum, Time to be Heard, ("TTBH") would be established. The purpose of the TTBH Pilot 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 in care, in particular abusive experiences, to an independent and non-judgemental panel.

8. The scope of TTBH was limited to one institution. Quarriers was selected because it was one of the largest institutions in Scotland providing residential care to children and young people, with up to 1500 children living in the Village at any one time. In total, over 30000 children had been cared for by Quarriers since its inception in the late 19th century to the closure of mainstream residential child care provision in the 1980s, when it ceased providing general residential child care.

9. People seeking to participate in TTBH were not asked to identify themselves as survivors nor to indicate that they had experienced abuse in care. This was to ensure the broadest possible participation of former residents and that a wide range of experiences could be heard. In total, 98 former residents of Quarriers Village were listened to with respect and in good faith. Participants were able to bring with them a friend, family member or someone else to provide support at the hearing. Institutions and alleged or convicted abusers were not present. Lawyers were not involved and no investigations were conducted.

10. The Scottish Government recognised the need for support to be available to participants before, during and after they shared their experiences in TTBH. The services of In Care Survivors Service Scotland ("ICSSS") were highlighted to every person who applied to participate in TTBH. ICSSS offered a specific service to people considering participation and its helpline was open until 11 pm on the days on which hearings were held.

11. The experience of TTBH was evaluated using a number of different methods including: questionnaires returned by participants; in-depth interviews with participants; and daily debrief sheets compiled by the Chair and Commissioners. Feedback was also obtained from ICSSS, including anonymised information about the use of its helpline. The experiences of other support agencies were noted in interviews with Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project, Break the Silence, Open Secret, Health in Mind and the Moira Anderson Foundation.

12. Feedback from participants in TTBH was very positive. While a quarter of those who gave feedback said that they had found it very difficult or quite difficult to decide to take part in TTBH, none indicated that they regretted doing so. A high proportion considered that they were able to say all or most of what they wanted to say and all said that they had felt listened to with respect and sensitivity. Over 87 per cent considered that the overall experience had been almost all or mainly positive.

13. An independent report of the experience of TTBH was published in 2011[10] and states that:-

"The experience of TTBH has shown clearly the benefits of a confidential forum. The large majority of participants have confirmed, in terms of release or partial release from the burden of the past, its encouragement of self-worth and self confidence, and its contribution to moving on and getting closure. TTBH also … afforded them a means of contributing to making provision of care better for children today." [11]

The Human Rights Framework and InterAction

14. In 2009, the Scottish Government commissioned the Scottish Human Rights Commission ("SHRC") to produce a human rights framework for the design and implementation of a Forum for survivors of historic child abuse in Scotland ("the SHRC Framework")[12]. The SHRC Framework was published in February 2010.[13] The Scottish Government provided an interim response (in June 2010) on the specific recommendations for the TTBH Pilot Forum and a further response (in February 2011), following the completion of the TTBH hearings and just before the launch of the TTBH Report, on all of the recommendations[14].

15. The SHRC Framework outlines what the SHRC regards as a "comprehensive approach to ensuring effective access to justice, remedies and reparation for childhood abuse". The confidential committee model adopted for TTBH focused on acknowledgement rather than accountability. As such, the SHRC Framework addresses wider issues than those addressed by the TTBH Pilot Forum. These matters are now being taken forward in the InterAction, a process which is being led by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland ("CELCIS") and in respect of which the Scottish Government has made a commitment to participate. The stated purpose of the InterAction is to "bring together former residents, representatives of institutions, government and others with responsibility to consider how recommendations made by the Commission in 2010 can be taken forward in practical and meaningful ways… [and] to develop an Action Plan for justice within a human rights context".[15]

Experiences in other jurisdictions

16. In developing the policy concerning the National Confidential Forum, the experiences of other jurisdictions in responding to adults placed in care as children have been considered, including developments in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Wales and Ireland.

17. From 2001 to 2010, a Confidential Committee operated as part of the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The approach of that Committee was sympathetic and informal, designed to support survivors be able to describe their experiences. This model, in particular, helped inform the development of what became TTBH.

18. Legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly to establish an inquiry into historical institutional childhood abuse has just passed[16]. The Northern Ireland Inquiry will include a confidential Acknowledgement Forum in which survivors of abuse will be supported to recount their childhood experiences of institutional care. The experience of developing and operating the Acknowledgement Forum will help inform the roll out of the National Confidential Forum.

Contact

Email: Julie Muir

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