Survivors of childhood abuse in care who are either elderly or terminally ill can now apply for a £10,000 redress payment from the Scottish Government.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney hailed the the advance payment scheme and described it as a “significant milestone in our endeavours to do what we can to address the wrongs of the past”.
The announcement follows “harrowing” evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, which is being chaired by Lady Smith.
“I hope it will provide some degree of recognition and acknowledgement for survivors who have waited the longest for acknowledgement and redress, and those who have a terminal illness,” he said.
The payment scheme, which is fully funded by the Scottish Government, is being set up as ministers continue efforts to develop a statutory redress scheme for survivors of in-care abuse.
Mr Swinney said: “The systems we now have in place to regulate different aspects of childcare and to safeguard children from systemic abuse are radically different than the regimes of yesteryear.”
To be eligible for a payment, abuse survivors must either be aged over 70 or be suffering from a terminal illness, and to have suffered abuse whilst in care before December 2004.
Mr Swinney said: “Applicants will not be required to submit evidence of having been abused but will require documentary evidence which shows they were in care.
“Terminal illness will need to be certified by a registered healthcare professional through a process which we believe is as sensitive as possible to the circumstances of the applicant.”
He accepted the process of applying for a payment could be “distressing” for some and pledged specially trained case workers would be on hand to help with the process.
Mr Swinney added: “Recognising the impact that applying for and receiving an advance payment may have on survivors, we will also make applicants aware of organisations that offer emotional and other types of support.”
There are “no reliable estimates” of how many people could be eligible for a payment under the scheme, the Deputy First Minister said, as he added applications from those suffering from a terminal illness would be prioritised.
He also explained those who suffered abuse in boarding schools would not be able to make a claim “if their parents chose that place for their children’s education”.
Mr Swinney said: “We know from criminal cases that abuse did take place at some boarding schools and the impacts will have been as horrendous as abuse elsewhere.
“But the advance payment scheme seeks to respond where institutions and bodies had responsibility for the long-term care of children in the place of the parent.”