Child abuse survivors call for compensation as part of forthcoming inquiry
Survivors of historical child abuse in institutions including schools and places run by religious organisations are calling for compensation to be included in a forthcoming inquiry.
The education secretary Angela Constance (pictured) will announce the scope of the inquiry at the end of April after having discussed the issues with victims as well as people who ran the institutions over recent months.
Survivors seek interim payments, similar to the system in Ireland.
In Care Abuse Survivors (INCAS), which represents almost 400 victims of institutional abuse, said that in the last 17 years, while calls were made for an inquiry, numerous victims have died of old age as well as ill-health and suicide.
Helen Holland, chairwoman of the charity, said: “We want the scope to be as wide as possible and should not be narrowed down. It should cover everyone who was abused under the care of the state.
“Obviously, the institutions responsible want the scope to be as narrow as possible because they don’t want to be named and shamed. There must be no cover-ups. It needs to be as open as possible.
“Since 1998 we have been calling for a proper inquiry to get justice for thousands of Scottish survivors of institutional abuse.
“What we want out of this inquiry is acknowledgement, accountability, reparation, compensation, counselling, basically all the things survivors need.”
Ms Holland herself was sexually abused and physically tortured between 1964 and 1974 at Nazareth House in Kilmarnock which was run by a Catholic order, the Sisters of Nazareth.
Her main abuser was a nun named Sister Kevin who, she said, punished her by throwing her into an industrial tumble drier and turning it on.
Ms Holland said: “Angela Constance will make an announcement at the end of the month to tell us who the chairperson will be on the inquiry, when it will start and the scope of it.
“When I met her recently she admitted she won’t please everybody, however, her priority should be not about pleasing people, but about meeting the needs of the survivors.
“I want her to help the survivors right now. What Ireland did was once the survivors came forward, once they had verified they had been in care, they were given interim payments of about 10,000 euros to allow them get help and have the right to choose where they go for help.
“The scoping exercise over the past few months has been very distressing for the survivors because they had to sit in front of a group of civil servants and tell them what they want in the public inquiry.
“Many of these survivors have never been involved in an inquiry in their lives, so how they are supposed to know what it should involve is beyond me.
“Thankfully, INCAS has a group of solicitors acting on our behalf because the government has more than 140 legal advisors.
“The government announced the inquiry in December and then put notices out in newspapers and online asking survivors to go along to events, many of them didn’t even see those notices.
Ms Holland added that child abuse in care is an ongoing problem.
She said: “While they are still dealing with cases dating back 60 to 70 years, abuse in care is still happening now.
“We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again and the sooner this inquiry gets up and running the better.
“Young people in care need to know that they will be taken seriously when they complain about what happened to them.
“It is a nonsense for the government to say things have moved on. The big institutions are not there but the level of abuse is still there and we cannot continue as a society to abandon children once they are taken into care.
“If this government fails to recognise what has happened, despite the fact there have been court cases, then they are just as bad as the people who abused us in the first place.”
On the inquiry, Ms Constance said: “There have been national investigations into this issue before. And it is important that any further inquiry complements and builds on previous work, while moving the issue forward.
“We will not make the same mistake as others by rushing out with names before we have consulted with survivors and relevant organisations about the attributes of a chair or panel.”