COVID 19 was an incredibly difficult time for so many but particularly for the community of people and families that PAMIS support. We are pleased to have been designated as Core Participants in the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry because this will enable the voices of this group who were so adversely impacted to be heard. We also recognise that for many the pandemic is still impacting, not least in the lack of day services.
PAMIS is being represented by Thompsons Solicitors. Please see below the Information from Thompsons in relation to frequently asked questions about the Inquiry and further information on how you can have your experiences heard by the Inquiry.
If you would like to have further involvement in the inquiry or receive updates in relation to the Inquiry’s progress please provide your contact details to Thompson Solicitors here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PAMIS. The survey also allows you to provide your information if you wish to be considered to provide a witness statement (see further information below). The deadline for providing this information to Thompsons is 8th August 2023.
The Inquiry process is an adversarial one with other Core Participants who may paint a very different picture to the lived experience of Individuals with PMLD and their family members. Core Participants such as Scottish Ministers, Public Health and Local Authorities may be attempting to convince the inquiry that their responses were reasonable and certainly proportionate throughout the entire period of the pandemic response. We know this is not true and that the decisions made during the pandemic severely negatively impacted individuals with PMLD and were unacceptable. Whether individuals were in a care home and unable to see, speak to, or have any physical contact with their loved ones, or whether individuals were living at home and had all their support removed. We understand that these decisions had significant and wide-ranging impacts that are still affecting individuals with PMLD and their family. This is the reason it is so important for you to engage with the Inquiry as much as you are able. The more Individuals with PMLD and their family members that the inquiry hear from the stronger your voices will be.
That is the reason we are asking you to share your experiences of the pandemic through the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry’s Let’s Be Heard Project. Let’s Be Heard | Sharing Scotland’s COVID experience (covid19inquiry.scot)
Thompsons have answered some of the frequently asked questions about the Inquiry and provided information on how you can get involved below.
If you are involved in the Inquiry process PAMIS will ensure that you have immediate access to counselling and support should you require it.
If you have any questions or require any advice please contact Thompsons Solicitors at [email protected] or telephone a member of the team on 0141 473 5298.
Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry FAQ and Information on How you can Get Involved
Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry FAQs
What is the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry?
The Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry is a public inquiry to investigate the pandemic, how the Scottish Government responded to it, and how both affected people in Scotland.
The Inquiry is an independent institution chaired by Lord Brailsford, a senior judge. It will investigate those issues included in its terms of reference – including Scotland’s vaccination strategy, the requirement for shielding, the provision of personal protective equipment, the management of care homes, the provision of healthcare service, the provision of social care support and the involvement of unpaid carers, the delivery of end of life care and the use of DNACRP, and the delivery of education. It will gather evidence, hear from witnesses, and prepare a written report.
What action can the Inquiry take?
An Inquiry is not a trial and cannot make findings of civil or criminal liability or award compensation. It also cannot make rulings on breaches of Human Rights Law. However, it can state that there was wrongdoing in making its findings of fact and its recommendations. The Inquiry will ensure that Scotland is better prepared for future civil emergencies, including pandemics.
How are the Inquiry Hearings going to be Structured?
The Inquiry is taking a thematic approach to its investigation and hearings. The Inquiry plans to give priority to evidence from individuals most impacted by the pandemic in Scotland. The Inquiry’s hearings will be grouped into three themes:
- health and social care;
- education and young people; and
- finance, business and welfare
The first set of inquiry hearings are going to be on health and social care with the initial focus being on individuals that have been impacted.
When will the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry Hearings Begin?
The Inquiry’s first hearing is due to take place the week commencing the 24th July in Dundee. This will be a presentation by an epidemiologist, Dr Croft, and will set out the general chronology and background of the pandemic.
The Inquiry will then move on to its health and social care hearings with a preliminary hearing at the end of August to set out the plans and practicalities for the following hearings. The health and social care hearings will then take place from the end of October until early December. Hearings will then recommence in February and take place until April. This first set of hearings will explore the experiences of the people impacted. The Inquiry has already begun gathering evidence for these hearings.
Is the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry linked to the Scottish Government?
The Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry is an Inquiry established under the Inquiries Act 2005. Its work is independent from the Scottish Government. It will provide scrutiny of and learn lessons from the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland, to ensure that Scotland is as prepared as possible for future pandemics. The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is investigating the devolved strategic response to the pandemic in Scotland between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022.
What is PAMIS’ role in the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry?
PAMIS has been designated as a Core Participant in the Inquiry. That means the group will play a significant role in the Inquiry’s investigation. Core Participants have particular rights and powers – including the right to make opening and closing statements through your legal representatives, you have access to documents that general members of the public do not and you have the right to propose questions to witnesses giving oral evidence.
Thompsons Solicitors Scotland are the legal representatives of PAMIS and the individuals it supports for the Scottish Covid – 19 Inquiry. Our job is to assist PAMIS to exercise their rights as Core Participants. This includes assisting you – as an individual PAMIS supports – to have your say on the actions of the Scottish Government and delegated agencies during the pandemic and to have your experiences heard by the inquiry.
What if other Core Participants have a different opinion on the events that took place during Covid than PAMIS?
Although the purpose of an Inquiry is to establish what happened and what can to be done to prevent the same thing happening again, this does not mean that there will be an agreement between all core participants about the findings and recommendations that the Inquiry should make. Our experience in public inquiries leads us to believe that there are likely to be significant differences between our position and that of other some core participants, for example Local Authorities, Public Health, and Care Home providers. It is there important that we are able to put forward strong and coherent evidence to support any recommendations which we wish the Inquiry to make.
Why is it important for me to provide evidence to the Inquiry?
Firstly, Core Participants have powers granted to them under the Inquiries Act and if they are organised and use those powers fully with the assistance of a strong legal team they CAN have real influence on the Inquiry – in terms of the lines of investigation that they follow, the evidence that is taken, the findings of fact and criticisms in the final report and the recommendations.
Secondly, there are ‘opponents’ who will paint a very different picture to the lived experience of Individuals with PMLD and their family members. There are groups who will be trying to influence the Chair to conclude that the experience of Individuals with PMLD and their family members was reasonable and certainly proportionate throughout the entire period of the pandemic response. Such opponents will certainly include care homeowners – Keane Premier Group Limited, Oakminster Healthcare Limited, Thistle Healthcare Limited Healthcare and Independent Care Homes Scotland are all Core participants and will have an agenda. COSLA, Glasgow City Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, City of Edinburgh Council, ALLIANCE, the Care Inspectorate, Public Health Scotland, and Health Improvement Scotland are all Core Participants and may also be pursuing a line that is contrary to PAMIS.
How can I be kept up to date in relation to the Inquiry?
We would like to encourage you to join the Thompsons mailing list. This will mean that you will receive regular updates from Thompsons regarding the Inquiry. One of the benefits of core participant status is that core participants are given access to documentation recovered by the Inquiry. The Inquiry has still to determine how core participants will be given access to documentation and we will update our mailing list once we have further information from the Inquiry on this process.
If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please complete this https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PAMIS. Please complete this survey by the 8th August 2023.
There will be an opportunity to ask questions about the information that has been shared in this post and on any other Inquiry related matters, during a video call with Thompsons legal team. Information in relation to this will be shared with the mailing list in due course.
How You Can Get Involved
There are three ways you can provide evidence to the inquiry by sharing your experiences. The Let’s Be Heard Project, a written statement and oral evidence. Each of these are outlined below. It is important to emphasise that evidence given in each of the three ways is important and will be considered by the Inquiry. There is no difference in status between evidence provided through Let’s Be Heard, written statement and oral evidence. They are all of equal significance and will be treated in the same way.
The Let’s Be Heard and Every Story Matters Projects
The Let’s Be Heard Project is the Scottish Inquiry’s listening project through which all and any persons can set out how they were impacted/affected by the pandemic and the Scottish Government’s response to it. This is open to the general public and is the primary forum in which the Inquiry will gain information about the impacts.
The Let’s Be Heard Project is the primary way individuals supported by PAMIS will be able to communicate their experiences of the pandemic to the Inquiry.
The questions will invite you to contribute to the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry by sharing:
- Your experiences during the Covid 19 pandemic
- The impact of your experiences and
- Any lessons you think should be learned from your experiences.
We would encourage everyone that is able to share their experiences with Let’s Be Heard. You can participate by completing an online or paper form or by submitting an audio file. Further information can be found at https://lbh.covid19inquiry.scot/
The Inquiry’s internal research team will analyse the experiences people share with them and produce a series of reports to help shape the Inquiry’s investigations and inform its reporting and recommendations to Scottish Ministers.
Excerpts from Let’s Be Heard submissions may be published on the Inquiry’s website or in its reports. All excerpts will be anonymised.
In certain circumstances individuals that have participated in Let’s Be Heard will be asked to give a written statement and oral evidence. When making your submission, you can leave contact details so that the Inquiry can contact you if they wish to ask further questions or obtain a written statement. Please note that your contact details will not be published – they are there so the Inquiry can follow up your submission with you if appropriate.
We would also ask that you participate in the UK Inquiry’s Every Story Matters. This is the UK Inquiry’s version of Let’s Be Heard and the questions are the exact same so your answers can be copied and pasted from one to the other. It is important you participate in both as the UK Inquiry has an element of overlap with the work of the Scottish Inquiry – in particular, both will be looking at ‘impact’ in Scotland. We understand that each inquiry will make its own findings in fact, and that one will not be influenced by the findings of the other. We are therefore recommending engagement with Let’s Be Heard and Every Story Matters to ensure your voices are heard in both inquiries.
We would encourage you to forward any submissions that you make to Let’s Be Heard and Every Story Matters to Thompsons to allow us to gain as much of an understanding as possible about the breadth of impacts. These will be treated confidentially. They can be sent to us by e-mail to [email protected]
Some Individuals with PMLD and their family members who are supported by PAMIS will give written statements to the Inquiry. As highlighted above, some individuals who give evidence via Let’s Be Heard and provide their contact details will be asked to give written statements.
The Inquiry is likely to take witness statements from individuals supported by PAMIS. We can not guarantee how many individuals the Inquiry Team will request witness statements from. However, if you would be interested in providing a witness statement please provide some information on the impacts of Covid in our Survey Monkey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PAMIS. The deadline for providing this information to Thompsons is 8th August 2023. We will consider all the information and be in contact to confirm whether we are able to put you forward to be considered by the Inquiry to provide a witness statement or whether you should participate through Let’s Be Heard.
There will be the option for your written statement to be anonymised.
The opportunity to provide oral evidence at the Inquiry hearings commencing in October, will be given to a number of individuals who have provided witness statements. Individuals providing oral evidence will be questioned by a member of the Inquiry Counsel team. While everyone’s account will be different and specific to them, it is important to stress that the number of individuals providing oral evidence will be relatively limited. The purpose of oral evidence is to give a representative sample.
It will in some instances be necessary to obtain medical records in relation to individual’s care. The Inquiry will do this as discreetly and sensitively as possible and this will only cover the relevant period during covid.
Criticisms contained in written statements/oral evidence
The human rights approach means that if an organisation or person is criticised in a witness statement, they must be provided with the opportunity to respond. In order to properly respond they have to be aware of which individual the complaint relates to. We anticipate that criticisms will be directed towards organisations and management rather than individual carers. The restriction order means that everyone who gives witness statements and oral evidence is entitled to do so on an anonymous basis. When a criticism is made the inquiry team will provide notice of this with the statement to the organisation criticised in confidence.
Our current understanding from the Inquiry is that, if someone criticises, for example, a care home or a care home manager then they can do so anonymously and even if their statement was not anonymous their name would not be disclosed to the care home or the care manager, only the general nature of the criticism.