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Policy actions 4 of 4

Unaccompanied children

Children and young people under the age of 18 who arrive in Scotland without parents or guardians are defined as Unaccompanied Children (UC).

Each month as many as five UCs arrive in Scotland, some of whom claim asylum, and in many cases may have been trafficked.

In section 19 of our children's rights progress report Do the Right Thing we recognise UCs as a particularly vulnerable group of young people for whom we must provide better support.

Scottish Guardianship Service

We support UCs by providing funding to the Scottish Guardianship Service (SGS), which is managed and delivered by the Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Children's Charity.

The SGS works with local authorities and other stakeholders, for example legal services, to help UCs access the assistance they need and to make informed decisions about their future.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 put the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian on a statutory footing. This means that Ministers are under duty to provide a guardian for every eligible child, and that relevant authorities will be under duty to refer any eligible child to a guardian.

This guardian will:

  • act as a point of contact and continuity as they progress through the asylum and immigration system
  • make them aware of their rights
  • explain to them the aspects of the asylum, trafficking and welfare system
  • introduce them to social opportunities and begin to integrate them into community life

More information on the SGS is available on their website.

Age assessment for becoming 'looked after'

Under Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 local authorities are obliged to provide UC with accommodation and safeguarding, from which point they become looked after children.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 requires relevant authorities to presume that a victim of human trafficking is a child in any circumstance where their age is uncertain, but there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are under 18 years of age.

In these circumstances the victim is presumed to be a child for the purpose of receiving immediate age-appropriate support and services until their age is formally established.

To reflect the change in legislation, we have supported the Scottish Refugee Council, in partnership with Glasgow City Council and others, to set up a working group to revise the 2012 Age Assessment Guidance for social workers.