Scotland

Abuse survivors claim tender plans put them 'at risk'

Boy crying
Image caption Abuse survivors say planned changes to their support services could leave them at risk

Survivors abused while in care have challenged Scottish government plans to change the way they receive help.

They have handed a petition to the Scottish Parliament in which they claimed the government proposals were dangerous and could lead to suicides.

Ministers want to put the In Care Survivor Service Scotland (ICSSS), introduced in 2007, out to tender.

They claimed this would put people at the centre of the support they received.

They said this was what survivors had told them they needed.

ICSSS offers counselling, advocacy, informal and group support and access to records for abuse victims, with services provided by trained counsellors.

Trust

The petition, handed to Holyrood's Petitions Committee chairman Michael McMahon on Wednesday, said: "The uniqueness of the service is the approach of offering all of the different strands in one service and in many cases with one worker.

"This ensures that survivors do not have to develop trust with a number of different workers."

The Scottish government has indicated it intends to put ICSSS out to tender working on a "broker model", with survivors offered support from existing NHS or social work services.

This would follow a consultation by phone, Skype or in person with a worker who would not be a specialist counsellor.

They would carry out an assessment of the needs of the survivor and broker a service for them from existing services or the NHS.

The petition said this could place survivors at "significant risk" if they had to wait to access help, while many mental health conditions experienced by abuse victims are considered untreatable by health professionals.

Having to speak to a worker who is not a specialist counsellor carrying out assessments could leave them feeling suicidal, it said. 

"Many clients of ICSSS report that the service has kept them alive and has kept them from being admitted to hospital.

"One survivor was in hospital at least four times a year and since accessing ICSSS has not required any admissions."

It added: "None of the specialist survivor agencies with substantial experience of historic abuse has secured ongoing core funding."

Ministers said Scotland was one of the few countries in the world with dedicated funding for support services for survivors and the government had committed an additional £13.5m to expand the existing service.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "This investment will enhance and expand the current range of services so survivors are able to access information, resources, support and services which meet their individual needs including psychological, physical, social, education, work and housing.

"One size does not fit all, which is why we are committed to an outcomes-based approach going forward.

"This approach will put people at the centre of the support they receive. Survivors have told us this is what they need."