Abuse redress fund to be backed by ‘substantial financial’ sum of public money – John Swinney

The redress scheme for victims of abuse while in care will be backed by a “substantial financial contribution” from the Scottish Government, John Swinney has said.

The Deputy First Minister told Holyrood’s Education Committee that organisations responsible for historical abuse are expected to make “fair and meaningful contributions” to the financial redress scheme.

But Mr Swinney (pictured) revealed that discussions about the amount of money charities would be expected to provide are still under way.

It follows a freedom of information request last month that revealed no money had been paid into the fund despite the Scottish Government pledging to have it ready by the end of the year.

Asked about the potential cost implications of the scheme on the public finances, Mr Swinney said: “Essentially the Government acts as a guarantor of payments in the scheme and the Government is obviously going to be making a substantial financial contribution to the scheme.”

He explained that public money would be used to pay victims in cases where the organisations involved in abuse prior to December 2004 failed to contribute or pulled out of the scheme.

Mr Swinney said: “Organisations potentially could be rendered financially unsustainable as a consequence of this scheme on the basis of what is required in the 2020s for events that take place in the 1970s.

“I don’t want to see organisations who are making substantial contributions to the delivery of good purposes in our society today to be rendered unsustainable because of failures of the past.

“That is material to the discussions that we undertake, but equally we do believe that providers and insurance companies need to engage substantively in the discussions that have been taken forward by my officials to secure fair and meaningful contributions.”

The committee also unanimously backed plans to include a waiver that would see victims forfeit their right to take further legal action against the organisations and charities implicated in the abuse if they accept the money, unless new evidence comes to light.

Mr Swinney stressed that victims would have access to independent legal advice, paid for by the Government, so they could make “informed decisions” about whether to accept the payments of between £1,000 and £100,000.

He said: “Once an individual signs the waiver, then they fundamentally give up their right to take civil proceedings.

“So that is why we have to make sure survivors are equipped with all of the necessary advice to make an informed decision about that point, because that is a critical point of either going down the civil route, or going down the redress route.

“If an individual was to sign the waiver and was to receive a payment but then subsequent evidence came to light that strengthened their position, they could come back to Redress Scotland for a further consideration of the new evidence that had come to light, which may result in an enhanced redress payment.

“It wouldn’t open up the ability to go down the civil proceedings route, but it would open up the possibility of revisiting the original redress determination that had been made.”

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