The Scottish Government announced last week that applications for Scotland’s Redress Scheme are now invited. The scheme creates a new review body, Redress Scotland, who will have responsibility for assessing claims of survivors of childhood abuse (namely, physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect) which occurred in a care setting prior to 2004. The Government envisions that the scheme will provide an alternative, easier to navigate route than the current system for making an abuse claim.
The issue of dealing with claims involving childhood abuse has been at the forefront of recent legislative reform with the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 and in light of the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. The 2017 Act removed the usual three year period to make a claim, meaning victims of child abuse occurring after 26 October 1964 could make a claim at any stage.
The Redress Scheme was set up as an alternative to making a traditional civil claim, and comes with advantages. A basic successful application will result in a one off payment of £10,000. However, an individual has the option to apply for a higher award (Individually Assessed Payment) and the scheme panel will review cases, sometimes leading to compensation payments of up to £100,000. At the moment it is unclear how long the process for Individual Assessed Payments will take, but for basic applications the aim is to make awards fairly swiftly where possible.
The main draw for applications is that the process has been simplified. For a basic award all that is required is completion of an application form, deliberately intended to be relatively user friendly. In addition, applications are designed to ensure that applicants are not necessarily required to give the level of detail that is usually required of a civil claim. It therefore may be a draw to survivors who do not wish to go down that route or do not have access to some of this information following the passage of time.
But as the old warning goes, all that glitters is not necessarily gold.
The process is designed to be more user friendly to allow individuals to make applications without legal assistance, should they wish to but that is not without risk. The compensation awards made by Redress Scotland look to be considerably lower than what some survivors may be entitled to if they pursued a civil claim against the organisation directly. It is also important to note that other than making an application for a higher assessed award, Redress Scotland is without any form of independent tribunal or review board meaning all decisions taken on awards are final.
In addition, if an applicant decides to accept an award, they must sign a waiver confirming that no further legal action will be taken against the organisation in which they suffered abuse. This waiver is to be signed within a strict time limit of six months. This is a concerning area of the scheme, particularly as individuals are not actively encouraged to seek independent legal assistance when going through the application or even when an award is made. Once the waiver is signed, individuals have no further right of recourse by way of a civil claim so it is absolutely essential that proper legal assistance is given prior to this point.
At Thorntons we understand that the claims process can be daunting. If you are thinking about making an application to Redress Scotland, it is important you assess your potential options fully first and seek the legal advice before doing so. You can find out more about making a historic abuse claim and what is involved here.
Michaela Dougan is a senior solicitor in our specialist Personal Injury team. For further information on making a historic abuse claim, please contact Michaela on 0131 322 6167, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can contact any member of the Personal Injury team on 0800 731 8434 who will be pleased to assist further.