Abuse survivor fears for future of lifeline service

A survivor of child abuse from Kirkintilloch says he will have nowhere to turn to for help if Scottish Government plans to effectively end a 'life-saving' counselling and support service go ahead.

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

The local man is desperate for the service to be retained. He says it has been vital to help him cope with the aftermath of his traumatic childhood.

He told the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petition Committee last week: “Where I live in Kirkintilloch there are no services for me.

“I have knocked on many doors and been refused help.

“When I have been in crisis while with ICSSS, all I have had to do is pick up the phone and someone is there.”

He said the imminent loss of the service he had come to rely on as a lifeline had left him devastated and he feels he and other survivors have been “misled”.

Last year, he said, Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Fiona McLeod, as Acting Minister for Children and Young People, along with Scottish Government officials, had assured him the ICSSS would continue.

He told the committee: “I have correspondence here from my MSP Fiona McLeod and (Scottish Government civil servants) Alexandra Devoy and Heather Brown all saying at that time: ‘Nothing will change, the service will continue.’ We believed that.”

He added: “I make this appeal to you for help. The ICSSS is working.”

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

Survivors petitioning the Scottish Parliament say the new “broker service” proposals, without ICSSS, will mean survivors are simply referred on to other services in the NHS or social care. This is dangerous they say, and could lead to suicides.

The local man has been supported by Provost Una Walker and Councillor Stewart MacDonald (Kirkintilloch East) in his fight to retain the ICSSS.

In his letter of support, Councillor MacDonald said: “I believe that the transition to a regionally integrated Health and Social Work organisation makes the need for organisations like ICSSS absolutely essential and wish you every success in promoting this valuable service.”

While Provost Una Walker said in her letter: “I would wholeheartedly support the ICSSS and would urge the Scottish Government to continue to fund the organisation.”

He told the committee the letter from Councillor MacDonald also confirmed “there are no services in the area.”

The survivor added: “The NHS have informed me that I will not be given CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) because it won’t work. I have also been informed that I won’t get psychotherapy because I had it before and it failed.

“If I have another episode I have been basically told by the NHS that I will get one hour’s help and nothing more.”

He added: “We also have group therapy within the ICSSS and it has provided me with friends to empathise with other survivors and their trauma and it helps us to value each others experiences.

“The survivors within ICSSS trust their therapists and counsellors. It has taken a long time for them to do this. The counsellors already have the long-term experience of listening to survivors.

“The ICSSS is not broken It doesn’t need to be fixed.”

He added: “Please allow the broker model and the ICSSS to work together. They can enhance each other.”

The Public Petition Committee, convened by Michael McMahon MSP, has agreed to write to the Scottish Government for an explanation, as well as ICSSS provider Open Secret, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Celsis (the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland) and Barnardo’s.

Fiona McLeod MSP said this week she wanted to assure her constituent that “the help he has come to rely on will be maintained in the short and long-term.”

She added: “It’s just how that support is bought that will change.”

The MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden said that since 2011 the Scottish Government has been committed to providing reparation to survivors of historic abuse while 
in care.

This committment was “in as individual a manner as possible, with the person at the centre participating in choosing what is right 
for them.

“This includes access to a broad range of services, which might come
 from more than one organisation.

The current ‘Survivor Scotland Strategic Outcomes and Priorities 2015-17’ commits £13.5million of funding over five years for the In Care Survivor Support Fund Service.

“This came about from a lot of consultation with survivors, in the form of workshops and documents, which have shaped the new service and enabled it to meet their needs in psychology, physical, social, education, work and housing.

“A broader spectrum of amenities than it currently provides but has been asked to provide. Ultimately, if an existing service isn’t working out for an individual, the new In Care Survivors Fund Service will be able to commission a new package to meet a survivors needs.

“The new service was put out to tender in October 2015, however, the existing service provider ‘Open Secret’ didn’t apply with a proposal, so someone new is going to have to take over.

“They have, however, said that transition plans are in place to ensure continuous support is maintained.

“So, as I said to my constituent when he wrote to me in my role as Acting Minister (for Children and Young People), the service will continue, and the help that he has come to rely on will be maintained in the short and long term. It’s just how that support is bought that will change.

“The Petitions Committee is committed to writing to the Scottish Government, and I am sure the Minister will reassure the survivors that help will still be 
at hand.”