The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) resumed hearing evidence on foster care on 1 November 2022. Separately, on 31 October 2022, SCAI named 39 establishments that it will focus on during a later case study on residential accommodation for young offenders and children and young people in need of care and protection. Further detail on this development is given in the link here.

SCAI was established under the Inquiries Act 2005. It began work on 1 October 2015. To 30 June 2022 it had cost around £58m, with updated cost details due to be published shortly. SCAI was originally due to complete its work and report to Scottish Ministers by October 2019. The timescale for completion and reporting is now “as soon as reasonably practicable”. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England & Wales was also set up under the 2005 Act and ran from 12 March 2015 to 20 October 2022 when it published its final report, link here

When first set up, SCAI was chaired by Susan O’Brien QC. From July 2016, SCAI has been chaired by a Scottish Judge, Lady Smith. From February 2017, Lady Smith has been the sole member of the panel. She is supported by a secretariat, a legal team and counsel to the inquiry.

The overall aim of SCAI is to raise public awareness of the abuse of children in care (under the age of 18) for the period “within living memory” of any person who suffered such abuse to no later than 17 December 2014. In particular, SCAI is directed to:

  • consider the extent to which institutions with legal responsibility for children failed in their duty and, in particular, to identify any systemic failure in duty;
  • create a national public record; and
  • consider the extent to which failures by state and non-state institutions (including the courts) to protect children in care from abuse have been addressed by changes in practice, policy or legislation and what further changes are required.

To date, SCAI has published ten research reports (or sets of reports), link here, on a variety of topics, some dating back to 1900, for example on the legislative and regulatory framework for children in care in Scotland. The child migration research goes back further in considering practice in the 1800’s.

SCAI publishes transcripts of all evidence heard in public sessions, redacted in places to preserve anonymity where that has not been waived, link here.

SCAI has also published eight sets of findings on evidence heard. Links to these findings are included in this table, which gives additional detail both on public sessions to date and those yet to come.

Phase of public hearings


When held / to be held 

Findings on this subject published to date

Phase 1

Background and contextual

May 2017 - November 2017

November 2020 - December 2020 (on Scottish Government matters)

March 2022 (expert roundtable on “the psychology of individuals who abuse children”)

On Scottish Government matters, link here

On the roundtable sessions, link here

Phase 2

Residential care establishments run by religious organisations

November 2017 - July 2018

Two sets of findings, links here and here

Phase 3

Residential care establishments run by non-religious and voluntary organisations

October 2018 - February 2019

One set of findings, link here

Phase 4

Residential care establishments run by male religious orders

June 2019 - November 2019

Three sets of findings, links here, here and here

Phase 5

Child migration

December 2019 -October 2020 (with certain evidence having been heard from abroad by video-conference in November 2018 and January 2019)

No findings published yet

Phase 6

Boarding schools

March 2021 - February 2022

No findings published yet

Phase 7

Foster care

From May 2022 and continuing

Phase still ongoing

Phase 8

Residential accommodation for young offenders and children and young people in need of care and protection

From the second half of 2023

Phase yet to start

Further phase(s) of public hearings might follow

SCAI has not, to date, made any recommendations. Recommendations are likely in the final report to Scottish Ministers.

Frank Hughes, partner