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Redress for survivors of abuse – could it be a reality across the UK?

As the Scottish Government considers recommendations for a nationwide redress scheme – Alison Millar considers whether such a scheme could be workable in England and Wale

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Alison Millar is a partner at Leigh Day and head of the firm’s abuse team. She represents survivors of child abuse and campaigns for reform in order to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. Follow Alison on twitter at @AllymMillar.
 The Centre for Excellence for Looked-After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission were commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2017 to consult with abuse survivors in Scotland regarding a potential Redress Scheme offering financial compensation for survivors of abuse in care in Scotland.

Their findings have now been presented to the Scottish Government, which will consider whether or not to establish such a scheme.

Redress schemes set up in order to provide financial compensation and other relief for survivors of abuse have become increasingly common, both in the UK and internationally. Examples include schemes implemented in the Republic of Ireland, Nova Scotia, the States of Jersey and the London Borough of Lambeth.

Schemes have been proposed in Northern Ireland, and in the London Borough of Islington in response to the campaigning activities by the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), representing over 120 survivors of childhood abuse who claim they were targeted whilst in the care of the London Borough of Islington.

Leigh Day represent a number of applicants to the Lambeth Redress Scheme and have successfully secured compensation for a number of clients whose claims may have otherwise likely been ruled out of time due to the current three-year limitation rule in England and Wales.

We are also working with Liz Davies of ISN, with the aim of persuading Islington Borough Council to set up a similar scheme to compensate survivors of alleged widespread abuse in Islington Children’s Homes in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The benefits of a Redress Scheme for survivors can be that, at times, it allows for a swifter resolution than the conventional civil litigation.

In the Lambeth Redress Scheme, the Council has admitted liability and waived the issue of limitation (the time limit to bring a civil claim). This has allowed survivors to receive compensation, as well an apology and other support from the Council. Institutions benefit from avoiding the considerable expense generally incurred in defending a large volume of civil claims.

The Scottish recommendations: The consultation process involved 181 responses from survivors. A review was also conducted of redress schemes around the world, but with only limited mention of the domestic Lambeth Redress Scheme.

The conclusion of the consultation was to recommend that a national financial redress scheme for survivors of abuse in Scotland be established by March 2021. Further recommendations for the scheme include proposals:
  • to provide a combination of a flat rate standard payment and an individual experience payment as a method of financial redress;
  • that survivors should be represented in the administration and governance of any scheme; and
  • that support and guidance should be put in place to assist applicants through the process of the scheme, including practical support, emotional support, financial advice, legal advice and advocacy.

Would such a Scheme be workable in England and Wales? Recommendations for a nationwide redress scheme for survivors of abuse in care in England and Wales were not included in the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)’s interim report issued in April 2018.

Lambeth Borough Council commented that it was to be hoped that the Lambeth Scheme would be considered as a template for a national scheme. However, there are a number of issues encountered in our experience of the Lambeth Redress Scheme that we would hope any Scottish scheme will avoid, as well as any future national scheme.

The reception of the Lambeth Scheme has been mixed amongst its applicants.

The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA), a group of over 600 survivors of abuse in Lambeth Care Homes, has raised a number of objections to the Scheme, many of which have also been borne out in Leigh Day’s experience of assisting survivors with their applications.

These issues include, but are not limited to:
  • Like the proposed Scottish Scheme, the Lambeth Scheme payments are a combination of two payments. The first payment is an interim payment, and is deducted from the final individual award. This has led to a situation in which former residents compensated for being resident in a ‘Harsh Environment’, but who did not suffer abuse, have been compensated equally to residents who were abused. This has created a sense of injustice amongst some applicants.
  • SOSA also considers that the Council failed to conduct an adequate Equalities Impact Assessment when drafting the Scheme, and that the structure of the Scheme disadvantages those who suffered abuse due to race, religion or disability.
  • SOSA has expressed concern that although it was consulted in the development of the Scheme, survivors have not had formal involvement with its day-to-day administration. It is encouraging that the recommendations for the Scottish scheme explicitly state that survivors should be considered to be included in the administration of any scheme, as well as its development.
  • Although the Scheme provides for additional support in relation to some areas such as housing, welfare, further education and employment, in practice the support / advice recommendations in the Scottish scheme may be somewhat more valuable to clients – particularly financial advice.

We would welcome proposals to introduce a nationwide redress scheme in England and Wales, provided that it is developed after an extensive consultation with the survivor community. Although the Lambeth Redress Scheme has in many ways been an effective mechanism for providing compensation to survivors of abuse, we would urge caution in adopting the template of the Lambeth Redress Scheme in full.

Although the proposed Scottish Scheme is at a much earlier stage of development, the current recommendations are encouraging. We await with interest the detail and implementation of any Scottish scheme.

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