CHARITIES have warned they have “significant concern” they will not be able to afford redress payments to survivors of historical child abuse.

The Scottish Government has introduced a Bill to make redress payments to victims of historical child abuse in care.

Organisations which were responsible for the care of children at the time of the abuse, including local councils, are being asked to contribute to the scheme – thought to total up to £350 million being paid to survivors.

The Quarriers charity, in a submission to Holyrood’s Education Committee, which is considering the Bill, warned that “realistically, if charities are to protect the services they deliver, contributions will need to be paid from free reserves”.

But the organistaion stressed that “many charities do not operate significant reserves or hold wider assets”.

Dr Ron Culley, chief executive officer of Quarriers, told MSPs that the charity is “absolutely committed to the rights of survivors” but insisted he has “some significant concerns” over affordability of the payments for charities.

He told the committee that “the sum being asked of us is a million miles away from being affordable”.

Dr Culley added: “As it stands just now, we are unable to participate given the level of contribution asked by government. 

“This will be understood though the application of an algorithm. My worry is that that is relatively inflexible and challengeable in terms of how it will be taken forward.”

A waiver has been proposed as part of the Bill, which would mean that care settings that provide “fair and meaningful” payments will be placed on a “contributor list” and protected from future civil court action. But survivor groups have criticised the waiver clause.

Viv Dickinson, chief executive officer of the Social Care Council at the Church of Scotland, suggested that insurance companies “will only contribute if there is some sort of certainty for them that they will not also be pursued for civil claims”.

She added: “We do recognise that goes to the heart of civil rights for survivors.

“Our understanding now is that insurers will not commit until the Bill is passed.

“I think that puts us in quite a difficulty with waiver. If there was another way that we could ensure we can contribute meaningfully, carry out our charitable purposes and not be hit several times with costs for the same claims, we’d be very keen to explore that and find some resolution to it.”

But Dr Culley was more skeptical of the role insurers will play – insisting it’s “highly doubtful” insurers will participate, even with the waiver in place.

He said: “The waiver has been put forward to create an incentive for insurers principally, to be honest, to cap liabilities.

“Even with the inclusion of the waiver in the Bill, I’m not sure that insurers will support the participation of the organisations that they’re working with.”

Education Secretary John Swinney later told MSPs that the Bill will harness “a collective response to the widespread failures of the past”.

He said: “I want this Bill to provide survivors and their families with the acknowledgement and recognition they rightly seek and deserve.

“We have brought forward this vitally important Bill because acknowledging the unquestionable harm caused by historic abuse is the right thing to do.

“Their terrible experiences should not have happened, and we are truly sorry that they had to experience what they did.”

Mr Swinney was asked about the contentious waiver issue.

He said: “Survivors have a choice that they could pursue a court action or they could be participants within the redress scheme.

“It doesn’t take away their right to go to court – it most definitely must, in my view, must involve an acknowledgement and acceptance of the suffering that those survivors have endured.

"I cannot compel an organisation to take part. What I can do is put in place an arrangement which I think provides the appropriate opportunity for survivors to seek the ack and reparation to which I believe they are entitled.”