A fund to offer support to survivors of childhood abuse in care has lowered the qualifying age of applicants to help more people.
The announcement has been informed by a review of the Advance Payment Scheme, which was published by the Scottish Government on 4 December 2019. The inital recommendation for advanced payments included an early review of the age threshold.
The Scheme provides acknowledgement and recognition, by means of a financial payment and an apology, to those who suffered abuse in care in Scotland before December 2004, and who either have a terminal illness or are age 70 or over.
The review has taken account of the first five months of the operation of the Scheme since it opened on 25 April 2019. It considered a range of issues, including application numbers and how the scheme performed, the age threshold for eligibility, the application form and guidance, the process of obtaining a written record showing time spent in care, as well as feedback received to date.
The main conclusion of the review is that the age threshold for eligibility to the Scheme should be lowered from age 70 and over, to age 68 and over. This is considered to be consistent with the purpose of the Scheme; a reduction in the age threshold will provide more survivors who may not live long enough to apply to the statutory scheme with the opportunity to receive recognition and acknowledgement.
The reduction in the age threshold to 68 and over is immediate. Survivors of historical child abuse in care in Scotland who are now eligible are encouraged to apply. There will be no further review to the age threshold. The intention is that the Advance Payment Scheme will remain open until the statutory redress scheme is operational.
The Advance Payment Scheme opened in April and more than 270 applicants have received a payment of £10,000 since then. The majority of applications (88%) were made on the grounds of age, with the remainder on terminal illness grounds. Applications from those with a terminal illness are always prioritised.
The initial recommendation for advance payments included an early review of the age threshold but it also looked at wider aspects of the Scheme, and many of the issues identified are now reflected in updated versions of the application form and guidance which have also been published.
Part of the review also considered the process for obtaining a written record which shows the applicant spent time in care in Scotland. This is a necessary requirement of the Scheme to ensure it is robust and credible. The majority of applicants to date have been able to provide a written record with their application form, It also appears that some survivors who had in the past attempted to get their records but were unsuccessful, have now been able to do so. However, it was noted that for some, this can still be a difficult process. The Scheme Advisers have built up their knowledge of this complex area and developed a network of contacts in the main care providers, across local authorities, and other relevant organisations. Potential applicants who are concerned about this aspect are encouraged to make early contact with the Scheme Advisers who will be able to consider their individual circumstances and offer initial advice.