Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (Engagement with Survivors)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 23 March 2016.

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Photo of Graeme Pearson Graeme Pearson Labour

6. To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take to engage with survivors on contested issues relating to the Scottish child abuse inquiry. (S4O-05711)

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

On Monday, following a meeting earlier this year, I met survivors to discuss a range of issues and, in particular, to consider a more structured approach for survivors’ engagement with ministers throughout the lifetime of the inquiry. If it is re-elected, this Government will immediately put that approach in place.

As Mr Pearson knows, many survivors have been campaigning for the inquiry for a very long time. Their views, ambitions and needs are vital to the work of the inquiry, and it is important to continually recognise that those are varied, considered and powerful views. That makes it all the more important that we continue to listen to them, to act on them where we can and to ensure that survivors’ needs and interests remain at the heart of the inquiry process and any other actions.

Photo of Graeme Pearson Graeme Pearson Labour

Since the meeting on Monday, survivors and our representatives have told me of their profound disappointment and anger because they do not feel that they are being listened to. They want an inquiry that covers all survivors, regardless of where the abuse took place, and a system of redress that covers all survivors. Will the Government work hard to deliver the promised survivor-centred response that they demand?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

I acknowledge that this is probably Mr Pearson’s last contribution in the chamber. I know that he has been a great friend to survivors and to many organisations, which I appreciate.

Mr Pearson knows that it has been very challenging to reach a decision on the inquiry’s scope given the wide range of views, even among survivors. However, the remit cannot be so wide that survivors lose hope of the inquiry ever reaching clear and specific conclusions. The definitions of “abuse” and “in care” for the purposes of the inquiry are very broad, and that was in response to the views expressed by survivors to me and to other ministers.

Mr Pearson has attended meetings with survivors that I have participated in, so he is very much aware that there are clear issues about the time-bar legislation and it not applying to pre-1964 cases. I gave a commitment in this chamber, which acknowledged those issues, that we would nonetheless have a dialogue with partners. I am pleased to say that Jamie Hepburn has announced the successful tender for the consortium for the survivor support fund and that this Government will be prioritising the needs of older survivors within that support fund to ensure that their needs are assessed and that they have access to the service and the fund by June this year.