People arriving from Ukraine - risk and need: public protection guidance

Guidance for all practitioners involved in safeguarding of children and adults who are arriving in Scotland from Ukraine to identify and respond to risk and need.

More information

Annex A: professional interpreters

The offer of a professional interpreter should be made to all of those who experience language barriers. Practitioners should be alert to sensitivities relating to interpreters and consider the views and wishes of those involved, balanced with any vulnerabilities or recognised risks. Further information is available at Scottish translation interpreting good practice guidelines

The use of family members or friends, for interpretation, should be avoided; because of the risk of misinterpretation, breach of confidentiality, and safeguarding concerns. Friends and family are not likely to have the skills to accurately interpret health or care related information in the Scottish context, are less likely to maintain impartiality, and should be given the opportunity to provide support without the added pressure of needing to interpret. When undertaking Child or Adult Support and Protection procedures a professional interpreter should be offered to all individuals who experience language barriers.

Children should not fulfil the role of interpreter. They may experience vicarious trauma through listening to and relaying sensitive and distressing information concerning their family member’s experiences. Children are not likely to have the language competency and literacy in English or any other languages; to discuss complex health, welfare or care concerns.

Wherever possible, interpreter services should be provided in person. Where this is not possible or would lead to significant delay, interpreter services can be provided virtually or by phone.

Interpreters may experience vicarious trauma through listening to, and relaying, sensitive and distressing information concerning people's experiences.

Efforts should be made to support the mental wellbeing of interpreters and mitigate any impact of their work through challenging circumstances.

Annex B: people with physical or mental illness, learning disability or other healthcare needs

Evidence shows that people with disabilities may have overall poorer health outcomes and a shorter lifespan than those without. A challenge of working with people arriving from Ukraine is to identify any additional support needs, including learning disabilities,  special educational needs, and other ‘hidden’ disabilities.  Such complex situations could include for instance:

  • diagnosis and support for individuals with disabilities varies between countries, and health professionals in the UK may be the first to identify people who have specialist health and care needs. Health needs can be misattributed as being part of the person’s learning disabilities, and hence not addressed
  • immigration status issues, short-term or unstable accommodation, language barriers and cultural differences may further complicate people’s access to mainstream disability services
  • displaced people may have had limited access to healthcare prior to arrival in Scotland, due to severe challenges and shortages in many healthcare areas in Ukraine
  • vulnerable people who have disabilities face further social exclusion and discrimination. Stigma (cultural or otherwise) around certain illnesses and disabilities may also make it difficult for individuals and their families to disclose or discuss this topic. Reluctance to discuss health conditions with professionals may impact on social isolation and social exclusion
  • displaced people are often more vulnerable to developing urgent health conditions than local populations and are subject to additional risks due to disrupted living conditions before and during their displacement

People arriving from Ukraine are entitled to the same access to health and social care provision as Scottish citizens. Health, social work and social care professionals should therefore: 

  • identify specific support needs of individuals
  • following an assessment of need, make referrals for children or adults to the appropriate departments who can offer support. This may include paediatric services for disabled children and those with developmental needs
  • recognise that there will be a requirement for rapid access to Community Mental Health and Psychology teams for individuals with pre-existing conditions or acute onset of symptoms; particularly if the journey and/or absence from previous treatments (including medicines) may have been exacerbated, or are likely to exacerbate, the conditions
  • consider the particular needs of children and young people with pre-existing mental health needs who may require access to therapeutic support and/or mental health services
  • consider the needs of perinatal women, who may require timely access to midwife, maternity, mental health or other services. Midwives and maternity staff should refer to the Royal College of Midwives guide to caring for vulnerable migrant women

Annex C: further links and toolkits

Visa schemes

Disclosure checks

Information, advice and support services

Scotland’s Baby Box Managing Agent to request a Baby Box by contacting or phone 0800 030 8003

International data and support services


The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 is the legislation that underpins the identification and protection of adults assessed as “at risk of harm” in Scotland. The Act is designed to protect people who are at risk of harm because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity.

The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 provides a framework for safeguarding the welfare and managing the finances of adults (people aged 16 or over) who lack capacity due to mental illness, learning disability, dementia or a related condition, or an inability to communicate (this is not related to a language barrier).

Assessments of need are local authority duties under Section 23-24 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995; and Section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 respectively. 

Local authorities safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to the children’s needs are local authority duties under Section 22 of The Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

The provision of care, protection and accommodation in Scotland for Unaccompanied Children is outlined in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 which applies in relation to looked after children and care leavers in Scotland.

We have advice on how you can leave your child with someone you know for an extended period of time. 

Unaccompanied children from Ukraine will become looked after children, subject to Section 25 of the 1995 Act.  Local authorities will therefore have responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of these children, as further specified in Section 17 of the 1995 Act.

Framework for Mental Health in Scotland is primarily contained in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 Code of Practice

The Rights of People with disabilities are protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).  Additionally, “Disability” is a “Protected Characteristic” under the Equalities Act 2010.

The Rights of Children are looked after by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland Home - The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland ( and specific information regarding the law around smacking children at



Back to top