• 2 Oct 2015

New legislation will support all children arriving in Scotland alone and separated from their parents

Historic legislation to protect children at risk of trafficking and exploitation was passed in the Scottish Parliament today (1 October 2015).

The Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill now ensures that all children who arrive in Scotland alone and separated from their families have the right to an independent ‘Guardian’ to advise and assist them.

The Scottish Guardianship Service, delivered in partnership by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Child Care Trust, provides refugee children who have been separated from their parents with essential independent advice and advocacy. Many of these children are survivors of trafficking. The Guardians make sure that each of these young people receive all the help they need to rebuild their lives in Scotland. The Guardians act as independent advocates for each child, helping them with everything from their health and wellbeing to housing issues, dealing with lawyers and helping them to build social networks and feel less alone in Scotland.

The new Scottish legislation places a duty on Scottish Ministers to provide guardianship to children and young people who are survivors or potential survivors of trafficking.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive at Scottish Refugee Council said:

“All children need to feel safe and this is especially true for young people who arrive in a foreign country separated from their parents and families.

“These young people arrive alone and are often confused and very frightened.  Often they arrive in a state of trauma and shock because of the experiences they have fled. Having a Guardian by their side and on their side makes a huge difference to their ability to recover from their experiences and to thrive as young people in Scotland.

“We are delighted that the right to a guardian has been put into Scots law and that it has been extended to all unaccompanied children arriving in Scotland. We know from our work that any child who is separated from their parents and living in a foreign country is at risk of trafficking and exploitation. It is hugely significant that the Scottish Parliament has recognised this vulnerability and taken appropriate steps to provide essential support and protection to people most in need of it.”

Sally Ann Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour Child Care Trust said:

“The provisions for children that have survived or are vulnerable to human trafficking in this amended Bill will make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable young people who have been exposed to untold trauma and hardship. The Scottish Guardianship Service, enshrined in legislation for the first time, will represent a beacon of hope and support to children and young people who, having escaped the clutches of traffickers, would have nowhere else to turn.

“The Scottish Parliament should be commended for the consensus it has fostered across all political parties by including the needs and interests of child victims in the development of this legislation.”

The Scottish Guardianship Service has helped more than 200 young people in Scotland over the last five years. Guardianship was piloted by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour in 2010 with the support of Big Lottery Scotland, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Scottish Government. Since the successful completion of the pilot in March 2013, the Scottish Guardianship Service has been funded by the Scottish Government.

Scotland pioneered the concept of independent guardianship for unaccompanied children and young people including those who had been trafficked. The model was commended by the Joint Committee of Human Rights in 2013 and it has directly influenced the development of similar provisions for independent guardianship in both the Modern Slavery Act 2015 for England and Wales and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

Rob Bell, Director of Strategy at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation said:

“Paul Hamlyn Foundation was delighted to have supported the pilot of the Scottish Guardianship Service, along with the Scottish Government and Big Lottery in Scotland. The Foundation also oversaw the independent evaluation, originally commissioned by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, after the Fund closed down.

“Our involvement as a funder and in the project steering group was substantial and so it is extremely pleasing, and a great credit to the partnership of Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Child Care Trust, that the service has been put on a statutory footing. The way in which an idea was developed, tested, evidence generated, and the service mainstreamed is a rare but compelling example of the way in which charitable trusts, working with NGOs and government, can collaborate to achieve greater impact for the most vulnerable in society. We hope that it serves as a case study to inspire further such partnerships.”

Jackie Killeen, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Director said:

“We want to support communities and families in greatest need and young people who arrive in our country alone and often escaping terrible circumstances deserve as much support and help as they can get.

“From 2010 we have worked with partners to fund the pilot and development of the Guardianship model which offers additional support from an independent adult or Guardian for all asylum seeking and trafficked young people here in Scotland. I am delighted to see this model, which has been proven to be so effective, is now enshrined in law.”

Read more about the Scottish Guardianship Service