15. Acknowledgement, apology and support (Q56–Q60)
15.1 The final section of the consultation paper noted that acknowledgement, apology and support were key components of reparation, and gave examples of approaches adopted in other jurisdictions to address these aspects. Respondents were asked a range of questions about their views on how acknowledgement, apology and support could be delivered.
Question 56: To allow us more flexibility in considering how acknowledgment is delivered in the future, we intend to include provision in the redress legislation to repeal the sections of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 which established the National Confidential Forum. Do you have any views on this?
Question 57: Do you have any views on how acknowledgment should be provided in the future?
Question 58: Do you think a personal apology should be given alongside a redress payment? [Yes / No] Please explain your answer. If so, who should give the apology?
Question 59: Do you think there is a need for a dedicated support service for in care survivors once the financial redress scheme is in place? [Yes / No] Please explain your answer.
Question 60: Do you have any initial views on how support for in care survivors might be delivered in Scotland, alongside a redress scheme?
Respondents praised the work of the National Confidential Forum (NCF), and emphasised the importance to victims / survivors of continuing to have this type of confidential service after the new redress scheme is established. However, some (mainly organisations) also thought it was appropriate to repeal the sections of the 2014 Act which established the NCF as its functions will be taken over by the scheme. This group wanted the scheme to build on the NCF’s achievements.Key points
- Respondents stressed the importance of both a personal individual acknowledgement (and apology), and a public acknowledgement of the wrongs and harms done in institutions where abuse took place. Respondents thought it was vital that decisions about the appropriate way to provide acknowledgement (and apology) should take account of the views of victims / survivors.
- There was general consensus among respondents that a personal apology should be given to survivors of in-care abuse alongside a redress payment – overall 87% of respondents (86% of individuals and 97% of organisations) expressed this view, with organisations almost unanimous on this issue. This group thought that a personal apology would be meaningful for victims / survivors and had symbolic significance in that it demonstrated acceptance of responsibility for abuse and affirmed that the victims / survivors were not to blame. However, some individuals who commented thought that a personal apology should not be given, and gave a range of reasons for their view, including that (i) an apology doesn’t change anything, (ii) it is ‘too late’ for an apology, and (iii) the perpetrators of the abuse were dead.
- There was general consensus about the need for a dedicated support service for in-care survivors – overall 96% of respondents (97% of individuals; 91% of organisations) supported this idea. It was recognised that many forms of support would be required – both physical, emotional, financial and material – and that support would need to be tailored to the individual.
Delivering acknowledgement (Q56–Q57)
15.2 Questions 56 and 57 sought views about different aspects of providing acknowledgement to survivors of historical abuse in care. Question 56 related to current legislation (the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014), which established the National Confidential Forum (NCF). The purpose of the NCF was to listen to and acknowledge people’s childhood experiences of institutional care in Scotland. However, given the range of other national developments since and the option to offer more flexibility as to how acknowledgement is delivered in the future, the Scottish Government proposed to repeal sections of the 2014 Act which established the NCF. Respondents were asked for their views on this proposal (Question 56), and if they had any views on how acknowledgement should be provided in the future (Question 57). Both of these were open questions, with no initial tick-box question.
Repeal of sections of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 (Q56)
15.3 A total of 177 respondents (141 individuals and 36 organisations) offered comments at Question 56. However, around half of these comments (both from individuals and from organisations) simply indicated either that the respondent had no views to offer in relation to the question, did not understand the question, or did not feel adequately qualified to comment. In addition, it was also relatively common for respondents to simply indicate that they were content with the proposal and to offer no further elaboration. Thus, the number of substantive comments at this question was relatively small.
15.4 There were three main types of comment in response to this question as follows:
- Some respondents praised the work undertaken by the NCF and emphasised the importance of victims / survivors continuing to have access to this kind of confidential service. A small subset of these respondents assumed that the repeal of these sections of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 would mean the abolition of the NCF and they did not think that was sensible or justified. However, other respondents who also praised the work of the NCF agreed that it was appropriate to repeal these sections of the Act as the new financial redress scheme was developed. These latter respondents were mainly organisational respondents who were knowledgeable about the current legislation. They emphasised (i) the positive opportunity of building on the achievements of the NCF, (ii) the importance of learning from the work it had undertaken and ensuring the skills that had been developed were not lost, and (iii) the requirement to incorporate acknowledgement into any new financial redress scheme.
- Some respondents did not address the question directly, but rather simply affirmed the importance of victims / survivors receiving an acknowledgement of and / or apology for what had happened to them. (Note that respondents did not necessarily restrict their comments to the question of acknowledgement.)
- Finally, some respondents did not answer the question directly but rather repeated comments they had made in response to earlier questions. For example, they asked that ‘all complaints should be listened to before making a judgement’, that ‘everything should happen in one building’ and that ‘there should be a governing body who are sincere and passionate about giving justice to the wronged’.
15.5 Two respondents (one individual, one organisation) offered critical assessments of the NCF and thought its abolition would have no negative impacts.
How acknowledgement should be provided in future (Q57)
15.6 A total of 162 respondents (128 individuals and 34 organisations) offered comments at Question 57. However, two in five of these comments (both from individuals and from organisations) simply indicated either that the respondent had no views or that they thought this was a matter for the Scottish Government to decide.
15.7 The substantive comments covered a range of both general and specific points as detailed below. It should be noted that respondents’ comments did not necessarily distinguish between the requirements for the provision of an acknowledgement and the provision of an apology; therefore, there was a degree of overlap between the responses to this question (Question 57) and the responses to Question 58, discussed below, which asked specifically about whether a personal apology should be given.
15.8 The main general points made by respondents were that:
- All organisations and institutions where abuse took place should acknowledge the wrongs and the harms they have done.
- It was vital that decisions about the appropriate way to provide acknowledgement (and apology) should take into consideration input from victims / survivors.
- Any bureaucratic / legal ‘red tape’ in the provision of an acknowledgement (and apology) should be minimised so that the victims / survivors do not have a long time to wait to receive an acknowledgement (and apology).
- Any acknowledgement must be meaningful, sensitive, and tailored to individual circumstances.
- Acknowledgement (and apology) can be powerful, cathartic and can help victims / survivors achieve ‘closure’.
- There should be more support and care services for victims / survivors.
- The NCF and Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) have been effective in allowing acknowledgement of abuse by society at large; any future approach should incorporate both these elements (a confidential forum and an inquiry) and should build on the work already undertaken.
15.9 Respondents made a range of specific points and suggestions in relation to the provision of an acknowledgement (and apology). They emphasised the importance of both a personal acknowledgement (and apology) to the individual and a public acknowledgement. Some respondents explicitly said that there had already been public acknowledgement of the harms done.
15.10 Almost all respondents who commented said that the institutions where abuse took place should provide victims / survivors with an acknowledgement. In addition, some respondents also suggested that (i) organisations and institutions with wider responsibilities (e.g. local authorities, the Scottish Government, inspection agencies) and (ii) society ‘at large’ should provide victims / survivors with an acknowledgement.
15.11 As far as the personal acknowledgement was concerned, there were mixed views about whether this should be verbal (face-to-face), written (email or letter), or both. It was suggested that a face-to-face meeting with a professional or senior official could be helpful in going over evidence, and also that written confirmation could be important for the survivor to know that they were believed.
15.12 A range of other suggestions were made in relation to how any acknowledgement should be provided, including that:
- A national annual commemoration should take place.
- A (permanent) memorial should be installed in a public place.
- The acknowledgement function should be incorporated into a non-time limited body (e.g. the Care Inspectorate).
15.13 Finally, a small number of individual respondents were against the idea of receiving an acknowledgement (and / or apology). This was because they found the idea ‘insulting’ or felt it was ‘too late’ as ‘the damage had already been done’. There was a view among this group that ‘not all victims will be able to hear an apology’.
Personal apology (Q58)
15.14 Question 58 asked respondents if they thought a personal apology should be given to survivors of in-care abuse alongside a redress payment. Table 15.1 shows that there was general consensus on this issue – 87% of respondents overall answered ‘yes’. Organisations were nearly unanimous on this question. However, among individuals 14% did not think a personal apology should be given alongside the redress payment.
|Local authority / public sector partnerships||7||88%||1||13%||8||100%|
|Other public sector organisations||3||100%||–||0%||3||100%|
|Current or previous care providers||9||100%||–||0%||9||100%|
|Third sector, including survivor groups||6||100%||–||0%||6||100%|
|Legal sector organisations||2||100%||–||0%||2||100%|
|Other organisational respondents||1||100%||–||0%||1||100%|
|Total (organisations and individuals)||194||87%||28||13%||222||100%|
One individual ticked both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to this question. This response is not included in the table above.
15.15 Respondents were asked to explain their answer, and where respondents answered ‘yes’, they were asked specifically who should give the apology.
15.16 A total of 214 respondents (178 individuals and 36 organisations) offered comments at Question 58. These comments were in response both to the original question about whether a personal apology should be given alongside a redress payment, and to the subsequent follow-up question which asked those who agreed that a personal apology should be given who they thought should give it.
15.17 All organisational respondents who made comments at Question 58 thought that a personal apology should be given. However, around one in five of the individuals who commented thought that a personal apology should not be given.
15.18 Those individuals who thought a personal apology should not be given offered a range of reasons for their view as follows:
- An apology doesn’t change anything about what happened in the past; it serves no purpose. These respondents said they were ‘not interested’ in receiving an apology and that they would not accept one if it was offered.
- It is ‘too late’ for an apology. In some cases, respondents referred to the length of time since the abuse they suffered took place; in some cases, this was reported to be 40 years ago or more.
- It was not possible for a personal apology to be provided since (most of) the perpetrators of the abuse were already dead.
- Respondents were unconvinced that the apology would be sincere. This was particularly mentioned in relation to the expectation that a personal apology would be ‘required’; it would therefore not be a voluntary – or sincere – act.
- Given that a public apology had already been provided, and that financial redress would be forthcoming, a personal apology was not necessary.
- It was not appropriate for an organisation / authority / institution to provide an apology since in most cases the organisation itself was not to blame; rather the blame for the abuse rested with specific individuals.
15.19 Both organisational and individual respondents said they were aware that some victims / survivors would not wish to receive an apology. These respondents affirmed that a personal apology should only be offered in cases where it had been requested or would be welcomed.
15.20 More generally, there were two main reasons offered both by organisational and individual respondents who supported the proposition that a personal apology should be given as follows:
- A personal apology would be very meaningful for victims / survivors. It is much more meaningful than a ‘general’ / ‘non-personal’ apology. It won’t make up for the abuse but it can help with emotional healing and can allow individuals to ‘move on’ from the experience of abuse.
- It is a symbolic act which demonstrates the acceptance of responsibility for the abuse, affirms that the victims / survivors were not to blame, and helps to ensure that the abuse and the circumstances which led to it will never be repeated.
15.21 Occasionally, respondents provided specific comments on the relationship between the two elements of reparation (i.e. the financial redress and the apology) as follows:
- Some individuals said that a personal apology was more important than any financial redress. Indeed, it was suggested by this group that a personal apology would be enough on its own – without any financial redress.
- By contrast, a second group of individuals said that the financial redress is – in and of itself – the apology; for these individuals the financial payment is enough by itself.
- There was also a view that without an apology, the financial redress payment would feel like ‘hush money’.
- One legal organisation said that more work needs to be done on the link between an apology and any legal liability.
15.22 Finally, there were mixed views on the extent to which personal apologies should or should not be (allowed to be) made public. On the one hand, there was an organisational view that a personal apology should be conditional on the victim / survivor agreeing not to publicise the apology, get press coverage or post it on social media. By contrast, among the individuals who raised this issue, there was a view that ‘sincere apologies should be offered on live TV’; others focused on the importance of the (written) personal apology being made public.
15.23 As far as the comments on who should provide the apology were concerned, the most common response from both individual and organisational respondents was that the current chief executive / senior official / or senior representative of the organisations where the abuse took place – if those organisations still existed – should provide the apology.
15.24 However, there were also other / additional common types of response to this question as follows:
- There should also be an apology from (a senior representative of) any other organisation involved in the specific situation (e.g. any organisation involved in placing children in an institution where abuse was experienced, or an organisation which had responsibility for inspection or regulation of an organisation where abuse took place).
- If the organisation no longer existed, then a senior representative of the Scottish Government (or the financial redress scheme) should offer an apology.
- In addition to the apology from the institution where abuse took place, a (senior representative of) the Scottish Government should offer an apology in every case.
- The individuals who perpetrated the abuse – if they are still alive – should give an apology. This view was expressed to a large extent by individual respondents and not by organisational respondents.
15.25 Other suggestions, mentioned occasionally, were that (i) (a representative of) the Scottish Government should always apologise on behalf of the organisation where the abuse took place; this would be the most consistent approach given the complexities involved and (ii) everyone who knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it should offer an apology.
15.26 Finally, individual respondents provided long, detailed and specific lists naming organisations and individuals which / who (they reported) had been involved in the abuse in their own case. These included specific organisations (e.g. local authorities, local authority social work departments, criminal justice organisations, religious organisations and orders) and some named individuals.
15.27 Question 59 asked respondents whether they thought there was a need for a dedicated support service for in-care survivors. Table 15.2 shows that there was general consensus on this question with 96% of respondents overall answering ‘yes’ – with a similar pattern of response among both organisations and individuals.
|Local authority / public sector partnerships||7||100%||–||0%||7||100%|
|Other public sector organisations||4||100%||–||0%||4||100%|
|Current or previous care providers||6||75%||2||25%||8||100%|
|Third sector, including survivor groups||7||88%||1||13%||8||100%|
|Legal sector organisations||3||100%||–||0%||3||100%|
|Other organisational respondents||3||100%||–||0%||3||100%|
|Total (organisations and individuals)||227||96%||9||4%||236||100%|
Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.
15.28 The comments made in response to this question overlapped considerably with the comments made at Question 60 – which asked ‘Do you have any initial views on how support for in care survivors might be delivered in Scotland, alongside a redress scheme?’ Therefore, these two questions have been analysed together.
15.29 In total, 220 respondents (179 individuals and 41 organisations) offered a comment either at Question 59 or at Question 60 or at both. Of these, just nine (9) respondents (6 individuals and 3 organisations) answered ‘No’ in response to Question 59.
15.30 It was common for respondents (both individuals and organisations) to simply affirm the importance of providing support to survivors of abuse; some specifically said that financial redress was not sufficient on its own. Respondents emphasised that any (new) service should be designed in collaboration with survivors and should be based around the services that people value. There was widespread recognition that the process of seeking redress could itself act as a catalyst to ‘triggering’ traumatic memories and it was vital that help was available to support survivors through this process. It should be noted that respondents who agreed a (dedicated) support service should be available also recognised that some survivors would not wish to engage with it, and that this should be respected.
15.31 More broadly, it was recognised that many forms of support would be required, and that these would need to be tailored to the individual. Many individuals would require support during the application process itself. Moreover, it was acknowledged that the support required in some cases would be lifelong, and there was general agreement that if lifelong support was required, then it should be available. The types of support which were thought to be required included:
- Emotional, mental health and social support (e.g. counselling, therapy, psychological support, peer group support, relational based support)
- Physical health support to treat injuries as a result of physical abuse
- Financial support (i) to ensure that victims / survivors were able to manage the money they received through the financial redress scheme and (ii) to ensure victims / survivors can access support in relation to any (other) state benefits they are entitled to
- Advocacy support including help to deal with any complaints about the financial awards awarded under the redress scheme, access to their records etc.
- Material and practical support in relation to education and training, careers guidance, homelessness and housing etc.
- Signposting to a wide range of services and further counselling services.
15.32 It was noted by one legal organisation that the provision of this kind of support should not be to the detriment of the victim / survivor’s access to independent legal advice.
15.33 As well as identifying these different types of support, respondents also commented on the characteristics of the support that would be required. The main features identified were that the support should be:
- Tailored to the needs of the individual, person centred and flexible
- Open ended, timely, easy and quick to access, and non-judgemental
- Consistent across Scotland
- ‘Joined up’ with other (mental health) services, initiatives (including the Independent Care Review) and existing support relationships and inclusive of other family members who may also require support
- Trauma informed, and provided by appropriately trained and specialist staff (the requirement for staff to be trained in delivering support for complex post-traumatic stress disorder was specifically mentioned)
- Properly funded.
15.34 Respondents suggested two main alternatives to the design of the support service:
- A dedicated and centralised national service which operated as a ‘one stop shop’ with a single point of entry and access to multiple agencies. It was implied in respondents’ comments that this should be set up ‘from scratch’.
- A service which explicitly recognised that a range of (local) support services for survivors were already in place. Under this arrangement, the service would build on the existing capacity and would primarily be about providing additional funding to existing services (and existing clients / users), and ‘rolling out’ services more widely from existing provision. This option was suggested by a wide range of individual and organisational respondents, but was particular favoured by third sector and public sector organisations.
15.35 A third alternative was suggested, namely a central organisation with an administrative function, which then outsourced the work to (existing) approved providers.
15.36 Those respondents who favoured a (new) dedicated and centralised national service emphasised that:
- Bodies making redress payments won’t be able to provide (adequate) professional support; therefore a (new) national service is required.
- A service with a single point of entry and access to multi-agency services would be the easiest to access and the most effective.
- Whatever is set up should be independent of any current arrangements for support.
- A dedicated – national – support service will build specialist skills; identify gaps; ensure that nothing ‘falls through the cracks’; provide a Scotland-wide, consistent service; furnish information about – and analyse – existing provision; and work to improve services.
15.37 By contrast, those who favoured the model of joining up and rolling out existing services emphasised that:
- Current provision was seen to be very effective in helping victims / survivors to recover and those individuals who were already ‘in the system’ and being (well) supported would not wish to change their current set up.
- It would not be cost effective to duplicate existing services. This approach would enable the efforts of local authorities and (existing) community organisations (some of whom were already working in this field) to be harnessed effectively.
- Providing services locally – rather than nationally – would be more likely to meet the needs of victims / survivors. Moreover, victims / survivors should be given control over how they wish to direct and receive support as indicated in the Self Directed Support (Scotland) Act 2013; this was contrasted with the perception of a nationally commissioned service which survivors would be required to ‘fit into’.
- Using existing organisations would give survivors ‘choice’ over where to go and would ensure that providers were suitably experienced.
15.38 In particular, the Future Pathways initiative was mentioned as an existing model which should be built on, replicated and rolled out. Future Pathways attracted a substantial amount of positive comment; just two individuals who commented on it thought it had not been successful. More generally, respondents commented that Future Pathways already provides survivors with a wide range of support and that, more particularly, survivors value their relationship with the Future Pathways Support Coordinator. It was thought that it would be important going forward to review Future Pathways in order to ensure that good practice and learning were identified.
15.39 A range of specific proposals were suggested, including that:
- The service should be developed in each health and social care partnership (HSCP) and / or health board and / or should be provided through GPs and the NHS. It should build on the current work undertaken by health boards on major incidents involving mass casualties.
- There is currently too much variation in the provision of high intensity interventions. There should therefore be regional training roles established to ensure a greater level of consistency in the provision of this kind of support.
- The service should incorporate an around-the-clock telephone helpline as well as drop-in centre(s) providing both one-to-one services and peer support / group support services.
- The maximum package of support / value of support should be made clear at the outset.
15.40 Finally, as set out in paragraph 15.27, a small number of respondents disagreed that there was a need for a dedicated service. Organisations in this group disagreed because either (i) they believed that any service should not be developed afresh, but should instead build on existing provision or (ii) they thought such a service should be provided by the Scottish Government. Individual respondents echoed the comments about building on existing provision, and made the following additional points:
- There is already sufficient help and support available.
- Past events were too traumatic to revisit under any circumstances.
- It is not possible to help or heal individuals who do not want to ‘move on’ from the abuse they suffered.