There should be a national confidential forum to acknowledge those who were abused in residential care as children, according to a report published today (Wednesday 23 February) by a Government-commissioned panel.
Time to be Heard was a pilot forum set up to allow former residents of children’s homes the chance to recount their experiences of care, especially abusive experiences, to an independent panel.
The Time to be Heard report makes a number of recommendations which will be put to Scottish Ministers for consideration.
The main issues raised by participants included lack of affection, denigration and punishment that was disproportionate to the behaviour that may have prompted it. The uneven nature of care also featured strongly, with some reporting very positive experiences.
The report identifies three underlying themes in the care provided – poor communication, lack of respect and inadequate preparation for leaving care. Sections on physical assault, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and ‘leaving care’ illustrate these themes through participants’ experiences.
The pilot included confidential hearings with 98 former residents of care provider Quarriers, ranging in age from 38 to 83, and covering the period 1935 to 1985.
Sixty nine per cent of participants live in Scotland, 18% in England and Wales, while 13% are living outside the UK. Nearly half had spent ten or more years in Quarriers.
The pilot was restricted to Quarriers on the basis that the organisation still has good contact with former residents (and could use those networks to raise awareness of the pilot). Further, Quarriers had taken children from around Scotland, and often for long periods of time.
Most of the hearings took place in Glasgow, however, arrangements were made for those who were unable to travel to the city, and in five cases the hearings took place in Canada.
The establishment of the pilot confidential forum stemmed from the 2007 Historic Abuse Systemic Review. The review identified the laws and associated arrangements that were meant to protect children from abuse in Scottish residential schools and children’s homes from 1950 to 1995.
In February 2008, Scottish Ministers announced their commitment to a “truth and reconciliation” approach to survivors of alleged care abuse.
Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education in Northern Ireland, who led the original review, chaired the panel of three Time to be Heard commissioners. He was accompanied by Scotland’s first Commissioner for Children and Young People, Kathleen Marshall, and consultant forensic clinical psychologist Anne Carpenter.
Tom Shaw said: “Participants have been overwhelmingly positive about their experience of Time to be Heard. They spoke of the effect on their self-respect, self-confidence and progress towards closure. For many, the most important benefit was simply feeling that their experiences have been acknowledged.
“We are grateful to each and every one of the survivors who took part. By sharing their experiences with the panel, they have enabled us to identify a dignified, respectful and effective way by which more survivors can recount their experiences.”
The report recommends that the Time to be Heard model should be the basis for the national confidential forum. It argues that the forum should be open to applications from anyone who, as a child, had experience of being looked after in a residential setting.
The report also highlights/recommends:
- The need for greater support for young people leaving care, including provision for care workers continuing their relationship with the young person for up to five years after they have left care.
- The need for clear communication of complaints processes so that children can raise concerns with the confidence that doing so will not make things worse
- The need to explore the impact that being in care as a child has when people go into care as an older person.
- All institutions that provide residential care services should ensure that their record keeping, records management and archival services meet the best current standards
- All residential child care providers should develop a photographic archive. Few former residents had any photographs of themselves as children.
- Appropriate legislation should be introduced to give the necessary protection for the effective operation of a national confidential forum
The pilot forum was independent of Government and was modelled on the Confidential Committee of the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse which had been established by statute. As a pilot, Time to be Heard did not have a statutory framework. This meant that the Chair and Commissioners had to work in a way that protected the information, provided in confidence, from having to be disclosed. The report recommends that a future national forum should be set up by statute to provide a more secure basis for assuring confidentiality.
Time to be Heard had no powers to investigate allegations and no role in recommending compensation.
The Report welcomes the decision of Quarriers to be associated with the pilot and the organisation’s engagement with the Restorative Justice Pilot which operated alongside Time to be Heard.
A national confidential telephone support line is provided by In Care Survivors Service Scotland on 0800 121 6027 providing support, guidance and advocacy to those who suffered abuse and their families.
More information on Time to be Heard is here
The report is available from 11.30am here
Copies of Historic Abuse Systemic Review, an independent review led by Tom Shaw (2007), is here
Tom Shaw CBE – biography
Tom Shaw was Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2000.
In 2005, he was appointed by Scottish Ministers as the Independent Expert to lead a review of the legislative provisions and associated systems in Scotland to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in residential schools and children’s homes across the period 1950 to 1995.
In the course of his work he met and received information from a number of survivors of abuse and from some of those responsible for the provision of residential services to children across the 45 year period spanned by the Review. In 2008, he was appointed to chair the Time to be Heard pilot.