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.



This guidance is for all practitioners involved in the safeguarding of vulnerable children and adults who are displaced persons fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. It is provided for all involved in protecting vulnerable children and adults from Ukraine in Scotland.

The guidance sets out the current safeguarding challenges presented by the arrival of vulnerable children and adults from Ukraine into Scotland and outlines the approach to:

  • identifying
  • supporting and maximising safety
  • the principles that should be applied and the legal frameworks underpinning practice

The guidance does not replace national or local safeguarding, child or adult protection guidance or established structures. It highlights those particular vulnerabilities likely to be amplified by the crises in Ukraine, impacting on all services working with vulnerable children and adults at risk of harm.

This guide should be read in conjunction with the Super Sponsor Scheme and Homes for Ukraine: guidance for local authorities. This has more detailed information in relation to entitlements, roles of local authorities, Welcome Hubs and access to services.

This supplementary guidance will remain under review. We will provide updated guidance if necessary as the current situation develops.


This guide refers to promotion of wellbeing and the protection of vulnerable people. Public protection is the framework and practice for:

  • maximising the safety of those who may be vulnerable to harm
  • protecting them
  • allowing for their identification and a skilled response where concerns arise

In Scotland, the foundations of public protection policies, guidance and legislation are held within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The principles and the entitlements of these Conventions must underpin our core business. 

Planning is ongoing in anticipation of the arrival of increasing numbers of people from Ukraine into Scotland. The precise number of likely arrivals is unclear and the levels of support will vary greatly. The level and type of support will be dependent on individual circumstances, including:

  • health and wellbeing on arrival
  • who, if anyone, accompanies children
  • the migration route through which they arrive
  • where they will be accommodated during their stay

Many children on the move in and outside of Ukraine are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents and family members. Nearly 100,000 children in Ukraine were living in group care – residential care and boarding schools – when the crises escalated. Almost half of these children are disabled. Children without parental care are at heightened risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. When these children are moved across borders, the risks multiply. Read the Joint statement by UNICEF and UNHCR, March 2022 on unaccompanied and separated children fleeing escalating conflict in Ukraine.

The United Nations Refugee Agency has identified groups of particular concern amongst those fleeing Ukraine, including:

  • women and girls at risk of gender-based violence
  • exploitation, abuse, and trafficking
  • refugees who are LGBTIQ+
  • older people or disabled people
  • third country nationals who had been living in Ukraine who have fled the war alongside Ukrainian nationals

There have been reports of some people facing discrimination on their journeys to seek safety, including Roma refugees. People of concern include those in need of international protection or at risk of statelessness who have been subject to discriminatory treatment.

The risk of trafficking increases in emergencies. Read the UNICEF news release on children fleeing war in Ukraine at heightened risk of trafficking and exploitation. Human trafficking remains a risk to children and adults both on and after arrival in Scotland.

Whilst it is the case that we are uncertain how many people will arrive, including accompanied or unaccompanied children.  It is essential that local areas are prepared to meet the needs of people arriving directly or indirectly from Ukraine, and that first and foremost they are safe and supported by trauma informed services.


These are exceptional times. However, with robust, professional assessment and good practice we can confidently support the children and adults who are arriving from Ukraine with any assessed health and social care needs they may require. This will include supporting and protecting children and adults at risk of harm in Scotland.



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