Proposals to create a National Confidential Forum (NCF), which will provide an opportunity for adults who were placed in institutional care as children to recount their experiences, including abuse, have been supported by the Health and Sport Committee.
The Committee has today published their stage one report into the proposals which are outlined as part of the Victims and Witnesses Bill. The rest of the proposals within this Bill are being scrutinised by the Justice Committee.
Convener of the Committee Duncan McNeil MSP 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”.
The Committee’s report has reached the following conclusions:
- The expectations of survivors of childhood abuse must be approached with sensitivity and, while the NCF can meet the needs of some people, it is clear that a broader approach is required too. The Committee therefore welcomes the work participation of the Scottish Government in the process of InterAction; the time-bar consultation; work undertaken on restorative justice, and the emphasis placed on the Survivor Strategy. That momentum must continue if the best interests of all the survivors are to be served.
- By way of its own contribution to that momentum, the Committee encourages that further consideration be given to matters such as: access to psychological, counselling and advocacy support; the links between the NCF and care providers; inclusion of foster care in the eligibility criteria; training and expertise of mental health professionals and the role of the Forum in informing policy and practice.
- As the Scottish Government recognises, access to counselling, therapeutic support, mental health services and advocacy will be essential if survivors are to see the benefits in their health and wellbeing from participation in the Forum.
- The Committee recognises that, while confidentiality is the cornerstone to the NCF, a balance must be struck between the right of the individual to give testimony in confidence and the wider public interest.
- The Committee believes the parameters of confidentiality ought to be set out as clearly as possible. This will certainly be a sensitive subject for survivors but no-one should be expected to take part in the Forum without a proper understanding of the process, including its benefits, outcomes and consequences.
- The Committee recognises that the NCF must have operational autonomy if it is to perform its role effectively and with credibility, especially in the eyes of the survivor community.
- It is reassured that most of the witnesses were comfortable with what is proposed, or in more positive terms, considered the Mental Welfare Commission to be a “good location”. The potential for stigmatisation arising from the mental health tag and how that might put off would-be participants arose but was generally not seen as problematic, provided its independence could be guaranteed and the NCF was badged in its own right.
The creation of the National Confidential Forum is included in the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill, which makes provision for certain rights and support for victims and witnesses. The other proposals within this Bill are being scrutinised by the Justice Committee. The Health and Sport Committee has only scrutinised the National Confidential Forum element of this Bill.