Staf is delighted to welcome The National Confidential Forum as our newest member organisation. 

The National Confidential is an organisation that has been set up to listen to and acknowledge individuals who have experienced institutional care in Scotland and offer a private space in which individuals can tell their story in complete confidentiality. 

In this Q&A blog, National Confidential Forum Manager, Gillian Middleton, provides information on the background to The Forum and how care experienced people can have their voices heard.

What is the National Confidential Forum and what do you do?

The National Confidential Forum was set up to listen to and acknowledge individuals who have experienced institutional care in Scotland throughout their childhood. The Forum offers a private space in which individuals can come and tell their story in complete confidentiality, participants know that they will be heard and believed.

You are talking about people who have experienced institutional care, are you an abuse forum?

We’re not an abuse forum but it’s a common misconception about the National Confidential Forum. We were set up to hear the accounts of any individual who is aged over 16 and has any experience of institutional care in Scotland. The Forum want to hear the good experiences, the bad experiences, the indifferent and the positives so we’re not a forum exclusively for abuse survivors.

So you hear some good things as well?

We do, which is great because the work of the Forum will help to provide a public record for Scotland. The fact that the Forum was set up to hear all experiences of adults who were in institutional care in Scotland as a child gives us a wider picture of what the care landscape was like. Some people have had very positive experiences of care. All the information we receive will help us make policy recommendations which is why it is so important that care experienced people understand that we are interested in hearing from them.

Who is the Forum open to?

The Forum is open to any individuals aged over 16 who have experienced institutional care as a child in Scotland. For some people there is a bit of confusion around what that might actually entail. Anyone who has been in a children’s home, hospital, residential unit, hostel, residential school, Young Offenders Institute, all of these places, would be eligible to attend the Forum. You only have to have been in institutional care for one night and no longer living in the institution you want to talk about. What we aren’t is a forum exclusively for people who have been fostered, adopted or been in kinship care. If you have been in any of those set-ups you would still be welcome to come to the Forum as long as you also had experience of institutional care. We would be able to hear about your other experiences but only if you had also been in an institution.

What happens when someone comes to the Forum?

Each hearing has two experienced practitioners who will listen to the testimony of the individual. The hearing is recorded and then the audio is typed up. If a disclosure is made throughout the hearing, the disclosure will be passed on to Police Scotland and will be done in a manner that is agreeable with the participant. Participants will have the opportunity to receive a written account of the testimony. Some people choose to have a copy, other people are happy to attend a hearing and then draw a line under sharing their story, whatever works for the individual works for us, it’s a personal choice.

Why should someone come to the Forum? How will it benefit them?

When coming to the Forum, individuals will have the chance to share their story, be acknowledged and listened to, perhaps for the first time. People have told us how therapeutic it was to finally share their experience, some people have been carrying trauma around with them for more than 50 years. What we hear will also help future generations because the testimonies that are shared will form part of the public record for Scotland and be a message for Scotland. In doing that, adults who have experienced care as a child in Scotland will be able to influence recommendations for the care landscape for future generations. What makes us truly unique is the confidentiality we offer participants.

How can care-experienced people contact the Forum to have their voices heard?

We would be delighted to hear from any individual who is aged over 16, spent at least one night in institutional care in Scotland and is no longer living in the place they want to talk about. You don’t have to still be living in Scotland, you can live further afield. We’ll cover the cost of travel and accommodation or we can travel to your location. We can be contacted on 0800 121 4773 or if anyone wants more information they can go to our website,