Scotland

Survivors' organisation threatens abuse inquiry boycott

Boy in distress
Image caption Survivors' organisations are threatening to boycott the child abuse inquiry

A second organisation representing survivors of child abuse in Scotland has threatened to boycott the public inquiry established to investigate historical allegations.

Members of the In Care Survivors' group (INCAS) said the Scottish government was treating them with contempt.

Another organisation, White Flowers Alba (WFA) has already indicated it will take no part in the process.

Ministers have insisted the inquiry, announced in 2014, is the widest ever.

Chaired by Susan O'Brien QC, it will investigate abuse in residential settings such as boarding and secure schools as well as among foster families.

These include allegations of abuse at the former Fort Augustus Abbey School and its junior school in East Lothian.

Repeated demands

But survivors have said it fails to address many other cases, including where priests abused children in parishes, and in youth organisations.

INCAS members said they had made repeated demands to discuss the issue with Education Secretary Angela Constance but she had refused to meet them.

Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer of INCAS, said that while the government had stated its desire to have a survivor-centred process, abuse victims did not feel engaged in it.

He said: "It seems rather strange that she is unwilling to meet with them, which flies in the face of the stated intention to engage with INCAS.

"With an election looming, survivors are surprised that Angela Constance is happy to treat people, who have suffered so much, with such indifference."

Image caption The inquiry will investigate abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey School, but not in Catholic parishes or youth organisations

The O'Brien Inquiry began its work in October 2015 and is to report within four years.

Among the complaints made by survivors' organisations is the failure of the government to consider offering compensation to victims and help, both financial and specialist care and support.

'Deeply flawed'

Inquiries into historical child abuse elsewhere in the UK and in other countries are looking at the question of redress.

WFA spokesman Andi Lavery said the organisation would not engage with the inquiry.

"It remains deeply flawed and unfit for purpose; it represents only further trauma for those of us remaining to yet again endure in its current form," he said.

"As in Australia, Northern Ireland and now under way in England, redress is being urgently looked at.

"Why is it one can be sexually abused in Scotland, and the best one can achieve is a chat and a cup of tea?"

Susan O'Brien has said she was unable to widen the scope of the inquiry.

In a letter to Angela Constance she said: "It seems to me that the matters raised fall squarely within the provenance of discretionary decision-making by government.

"These are political decisions, and I do not wish to comment further."

The Scottish government insisted it was fully committed to supporting survivors of childhood abuse.

Ms Constance said a decision had yet to be taken on reparation or compensation for survivors.

In a letter to INCAS in December 2015 she said: "I am conscious that many survivors have waited too long for recognition and validation of their appalling childhood experiences, but wish to ensure that any decision we take as regards to reparation arrangements addresses the complexities in meeting the needs of all survivors, as far as this can be achieved. "

A spokesperson for the inquiry said: "The Historical Child Abuse Inquiry continues to engage with a range of groups in order to understand their views on how the inquiry should proceed with its work.

"We are developing and will shortly finalise procedures that will enable us to take and assess the evidence received from survivors and other interested parties.

"These procedures will include how to apply for funding for legal representation. As the chair indicated last month, interested parties will have until 31 January to make their views known."

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