Restorative forum for residential abuse victims

30 May 2013

A plan to offer child abuse victims a forum to relive their experiences must be accompanied by an emphasis on achieving justice for survivors, a committee of MSPs has concluded.

The Scottish Government wants to establish a National Confidential Forum (NCF) to "provide an opportunity for adults who were placed in institutional care as children to recount their experiences in a confidential, non-judgemental and supportive setting".

But Holyrood's Health Committee has previously heard that the NCF "does not go far enough" and could make matters worse if witnesses are asked to relive traumatic experiences without any offer of justice or compensation.

In its final report released on Monday, the committee has signaled its support for the NCF but advised that it must not be seen as a "panacea" for victims.

The committee acknowledged the frustrations of people who have heard promises of support in the past and feel as if they have been passing through "revolving doors" since leaving care.

While the NCF can meet the needs of some people, the committee said a broader approach is required too.

The committee has welcomed Scottish Government efforts to reform the time-bar laws, which limit the time in which proceedings can be brought, and work undertaken on restorative justice.

Convener Duncan McNeil said: "It was clear from evidence we heard that the creation of this forum will not right the many wrongs of those that suffered whilst in institutional care as children.

"However, it is hoped that the forum may give some adults the opportunity to be heard in a safe and confidential setting, which is why our committee is today supporting its creation.

"What we want to make sure is that the forum is not seen as a panacea. The experiences of each and every child that suffered whilst in care are personal and individual to them. As adults the support packages in place should reflect that and be tailored to their own personal needs. It should not be a one-size-fits-all model."

Deputy convener Bob Doris MSP said: "The creation of the national confidential forum was supported by many individuals and organisations that we heard from.

"However it was also clear that we need to get the detail right to ensure that the forum meets the needs of those survivors that will use it.

"What is also important is that this forum does not exist in isolation and that a broader approach is taken to make sure the needs of survivors are met.

"This includes emphasis on a survivor strategy, restorative justice and wider access to counselling and psychological support".