Redress Bill waiver still a ‘betrayal’ of child abuse survivors, campaigner claims

Survivors of child abuse still feel a waiver built into a new Bill to compensate them is a “betrayal”, a campaigner has said.

The Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill is currently at stage two in the Scottish Parliament and would give financial compensation to survivors.

However, as part of the Bill, survivors would have to sign a waiver saying they would not pursue further legal action against care providers after they have received the payment.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney (pictured) has said previously this is to ensure care providers contribute financially to the scheme, ensuring they are not hit with further financial penalties by a court at a later date.

But the waiver has proven controversial among survivors and opposition politicians, prompting Mr Swinney to propose a number of possible changes to the legislation.

Mr Swinney, who has taken the lead on marshalling the legislation through Holyrood, said in response to the Education and Skills Committee report on the Bill that the Government will look to extend from 12 weeks to six months the time given to survivors to decide if they wish to take the payment and sign the waiver.

The waiver is currently only needed if the survivor applying was in the care of a provider which has contributed, but there is no mechanism to revoke the waiver should the provider refuse to, or be unable to, pay into the scheme.

The Deputy First Minister said the Government is looking into the issue.

But in evidence to the committee on Wednesday, Wellbeing Scotland chief executive Janine Rennie said survivors remain angry at the idea of having to sign a waiver despite the changes pledged.

“Survivors are not satisfied at all by the changes that have been proposed,” she said.

“They still feel that the waiver has been a betrayal of everything they’ve been through over the years, and a large number of survivors have said they would fight this all the way if they felt that a waiver was still going to be in place within the redress Bill.”

She said survivors fear some may accept the payment and sign the waiver, before new evidence of their abuse comes to light later which would make legal action more likely to be successful.

She said: “Survivors feel that they wouldn’t know all the possible ramifications if they sign the waiver, even if it’s maybe two or three years down the line – things are changing all the time with more survivors coming forward.

According to Ms Rennie, meetings with survivors can become “angry” when the waiver is mentioned, and she feels “their choice should be absolutely respected”.

However, Helen Holland of the In Care Abuse Survivors group disagreed.

She told the committee the extension of the decision period to six months would allow for legal advice to be taken on the whether the settlement should be accepted.

She added there would be such an agreement at the conclusion of any legal financial settlement.

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