Scotland

Survivors hope abuse inquiry departures mean new remit

Child sitting on bench Image copyright Thinkstock

Child abuse survivors in Scotland have said they hope resignations from a Scottish government inquiry could redefine the investigation.

The panel's chair stepped down. It followed the departure of another panel member, claiming government interference.

Now campaigners have said they hope it will lead to a new remit for the inquiry.

Education Secretary John Swinney has promised to consider changes.

Victims and survivors have expressed concern about the appointment of replacement panel members.

And they would like the inquiry widened to include abuse committed outwith residential settings.

Helen Holland, from the In Care Abuse Survivors group (Incas), told the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme that they also want the inquiry to be able to consider the award of recompense to victims of abuse.

"It means someone can go forward, speak about their experience, speak about the abuse that they suffered," she said.

"The panel of the inquiry would then have the power to include redress for that individual."

That would mean, she explained, that survivors wouldn't have to wait for the inquiry process to be completed before they then having to go to a civil court to get justice.

Support services

Fellow abuse survivor and campaigner in Ireland Colm O'Gorman, who founded the "One in Four" campaign group, said redress in this context means much more than cash compensation.

He told the programme it is about "working to ensure, so far as is possible, we restore people to the place they may well have been in their lives had these violations not happened in the first place".

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Media captionCampaigner Colm O'Gorman says help for abuse survivors is not about money

He said that could include "access to good education services, to housing supports, sometimes ensuring that you have appropriate medical services to refer people on to".

"In my experience working with victims of abuse," he added, "it's often these unseen support services that are really important."

After meeting campaigners last week Mr Swinney said: "I want to assure survivors that I have heard them today. I recognise how important it is for us to build trust and I am absolutely committed to that.

"I am utterly committed to an independent inquiry and I have tried to answer all the questions survivors had. I will now take time to consider the issues they have raised, including expanding the remit of the inquiry.

"All the evidence already collected by the inquiry will be utilised and work has begun on filling the panel vacancies while the remaining panel member and the team continue processing applications. The inquiry remains on track, and I will be meeting survivor groups again over the summer."

But victims are realistic about what any inquiry process can deliver.

Colm O'Gorman said: "Of course the first thing victims want is for the abuse not to have happened."

And Helen Holland of Incas told me: "Human beings are capable of doing that to children. And that will always be the case. As long as there are human beings in the world."

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