Redress Scotland Voices – Meet our Chair, Dr Kirsty Darwent

Meet Our Chair

Hello Kirsty. First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us how you came to take up the role of chair at Redress Scotland?

I have been following the creation and development of Redress Scotland since the early days of the redress scheme. It was clear to me from the start that the organisation had a key role to play in achieving justice for the survivor community.

When I saw the chair role advertised, I thought very carefully about my decision to apply. I knew that I would need to make a really significant commitment to be able to do justice to the importance of the role. I decided to apply because I believe in Redress Scotland as an organisation and because I care deeply about improving survivors’ experiences of the scheme.

I have a mix of experience, both of chairing boards and of working with people with complex trauma. By bringing my experience to this role, I am able to always keep survivors’ best interest at heart.

In your time at the organisation so far, what have you found the most rewarding part of your role? Has anything surprised you?

Redress Scotland really is a survivor-focused organisation. The team goes above and beyond to embody its values of dignity, compassion and respect and I have been very encouraged to see that survivors are truly at the centre of everything we do.

I’ve also been impressed with the way that Redress Scotland operates. It’s is a very young organisation but is mature in how it works. The organisation is founded on positive working relationships and careful consideration is given to every aspect of our work.

How does Redress Scotland ensure that survivors are treated well, with dignity, respect and compassion?

We have listened to what survivors have said about decision-making and made real changes. For example, their voices have directed the design of, and language used in, our corporate plan. We have introduced new letters to give survivors more information about the progress of their application to ensure that we are providing clear, transparent and direct information. The letters we send to survivors about the decision on their application are also very focused on the individual and reflect their unique experience. Explaining decisions in a straightforward way is an important part of respecting survivors.

Everyone at the organisation, from the panellists to our team members, are committed to continuously learning and improving. This means that as an organisation we are able to listen to survivors and make changes.

What does the year ahead hold for Redress Scotland?

While I am currently very aware of how much I need to learn, I hope to steer the organisation through its next stage of development, with the intention of better serving survivors.

I intend to be transparent and accessible so that I can receive feedback from survivors and their next of kin.

Over the next year, we are especially focussed on improving the length of time that Redress Scotland takes to make decision on applications. I am very aware that decisions are currently taking longer than we would like. This is due to increased numbers of applications being sent to Redress Scotland. I know this is difficult for many survivors especially as they wait to receive their decisions. We are recruiting more panel members and working as hard as we can to improve this.

Developing our relationships with the survivor community is key for us, and we look forward to engaging with them, including through the survivor forum. We will listen and learn to make sure that we continue to prioritise treating survivors with the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve.

Redress Scotland is an independent public body, however we work closely with the Scottish Government as both organisations have responsibilities for Scotland’s Redress Scheme. Through engagement and communication, we will continue to develop our working relationship with a focus on making improvements across the scheme over the next year.

If there’s one thing you would wish for survivors to know about you, what would that be?

Much of my role is to help steer Redress Scotland by working with Joanna, the Chief Executive, its board and panel members and the wider team. Everything I do in this role is in the interests of survivors, most of whom I will never meet, but whom I am thinking about in every decision I make.

What qualities – both personal and professional – do you bring to Redress Scotland?

Personally, I am warm and friendly and keen to get to know people and hear about what is important to them. I value other people’s experiences and like to learn new things from them every day.

This also helps me professionally as the Chair because I firmly believe that listening to a wide range of views makes for better understanding and decisions, as well as making every meeting a learning opportunity.

I have experience of working with people affected by trauma and life challenges as well as chairing several third and public sector boards and I think this combination of experience will support me to do the best I can for Redress Scotland and survivors.

I am also not afraid to challenge and question in the best interests of the people that we are here to serve.

What are your interests outside of work?

I am a member of a book group which makes me read things I would not otherwise choose for myself. We have been meeting for nearly 20 years and while the discussions about the books are great, we have also developed strong friendships and we have supported each other through some really tough times.

I love travelling and particularly enjoy trying new food. I visited Lisbon in November and it was great.

I have also recently turned my hand to DIY and currently spend my weekends up to my elbows in paint. I’m hoping to eventually be as neat and tidy as the professionals are!

Is there anything else you would like survivors to know?

Because I am new to this role, I know that I will have to earn trust. I plan to work hard and listen well to try to really understand survivors’ experiences so that I can better lead and represent Redress Scotland.