5. Review of the process for obtaining a written in care record
5.1 Before the launch of the Advance Payment Scheme there was considerable uncertainty about the availability of in care records and the process for obtaining a written record which was sufficient to demonstrate the applicant had spent time in care in Scotland before 2004. Despite concern about whether this would present a barrier to access for some, this was a necessary requirement of the scheme to ensure it was robust and credible.
5.2 The majority of applicants to date have been able to provide a written record with their application form, without further searches being required. For many who did not already have a record, and who made contact with the Advance Payment Team, the Advisers were able to advise them how to access their records and to suggest alternative sources of documentation.
5.3 It also appears that some survivors who had in the past attempted to get their records but were unsuccessful, have now been able to do so. This may be a consequence of the work of the Inquiry and the increased resource and attention which is being given to records retrieval. In some cases, it may have been different sources have been contacted to obtain a record, for example rather than the residential care provider, approaches have been made to health agencies, Police Scotland or local authorities.
5.4 Nevertheless, for some it can be a difficult process to obtain a record. This can be influenced by a number of factors such as the timing and arrangements of the care placement or the particular care settings. In these cases, applicants have been able to obtain records from elsewhere, although these have often been the cases that take longer. The scheme Advisers are developing expertise in how to broaden the search from records held by care providers to a wider range of potential sources. Where it is very complex, or could have significant emotional challenge, applicants are generally signposted to specialist record search and/or support services.
5.5 We are conscious that this is a complicated landscape, particularly for the eligible group for an Advance Payment. To date, no applicant to the scheme has been refused a payment because they could not provide a record showing time in care, although we accept that such a situation may occur in the future.
5.6 Over the first five months of the scheme, we have developed considerable skills and knowledge about different sources of records and have been building up networks and key contacts in many of the main care providers, across local authorities, and in other organisations such as the National Records of Scotland. The key learning has been to encourage applicants to engage in dialogue with the Advisers in the early stages of their application to consider their individual circumstances, and to take a flexible approach to exploring the most likely and effective routes to obtaining a written record.
5.7 There has been close working with COSLA to raise awareness of the scheme amongst local authority staff responsible for archiving records and for responding to Subject Access Requests. Steps have been taken to speed up the process for scheme applicants who only require one record which confirms they were in care, as this should in most cases take less time for local authority staff to process than a Subject Access Request for full records. A template request for this specific purpose has been agreed between Scottish Government and COSLA and this is now in use. Applicants wishing to use this should contact the scheme Advisers to discuss if this might be the most helpful approach for their circumstances.
5.8 The scheme requires the verification of the written in care record provided by an applicant with the organisation that provided the document or the care provider named on the document, if different. This is set out in the revised Privacy Notice. Care providers, COSLA and local authorities, and other organisations have been very helpful with this process which is working well. We are grateful for their time and assistance in helping us provide Advance Payments to survivors.
5.9 It is possible that some survivors have been put off applying for an Advance Payment either because they are concerned that records will be unavailable, have not been able to obtain records in the past or because the process seems too daunting. Potential applicants are encouraged to make contact with the Advisers who will be able to discuss any concerns and help guide them through the process.
5.10 In recognition of the importance of a written record for an Advance Payment, we are developing a Guidance Note on in care records. It is intended that this will help survivors, family members or other organisations supporting survivors to explore a range of possible routes to obtain, if available, a record for the purpose of the Advance Payment Scheme.
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