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.

Public protection


Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, exchanging or transferring control over another person or facilitation of any of these actions for the purposes of exploitation or in the knowledge that the person is likely to be exploited. Travel is not required for human trafficking to take place.

People can be trafficked and exploited for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and organ removal.

Anyone can be vulnerable to trafficking or exploitation, though women and girls make up the majority of trafficking victims. Individuals traveling without identity documentation, can be particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Potential victims may display a range of indicators and vulnerability to trafficking/exploitation once in Scotland must be recognised.

Local authorities are designated First Responder Organisations under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which is the UK-wide framework for identifying and providing support to victims of trafficking and exploitation. Local practitioners should refer to the NRM Toolkit for more information on how to approach a potential case of human trafficking and exploitation. Individuals with concerns about the safety of an individual(s), should report these to the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700. Concerns can also be reported online or to Police Scotland on 101 or 999 if an individual is felt to be in immediate danger.

Potential adult victims of human trafficking and exploitation are entitled to support and assistance under the NRM in Scotland. This support is delivered by the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (adult women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation) and Migrant Help (all other adult trafficking cases). Adults who have consented to enter the NRM are entitled to up to 90 days of support, or longer in some circumstances. Support can include accommodation, assistance with day to day living, medical advice and treatment including psychological help, language translation and interpretation, counselling, legal advice, help accessing other services and, if the victim wishes, repatriation.

Individuals can also contact the Scottish Guardianship Service whose guardians can provide practical help and support as well as help child refugees and victims of trafficking to navigate the immigration and welfare processes.

Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit continues to engage closely with Border Force and British Transport Police to maintain high visibility of human trafficking and exploitation risks at points of entry around Scotland.

Witnesses and victims of war crimes in Ukraine

Children and adults who arrive in the UK may report that they have been the victim or have witnessed War Crimes prior to leaving Ukraine.

Police Scotland are part of the national policing response to gather evidence for the International Criminal Court (ICC) enquiry into potential war crimes in the affected region and can be contacted through normal reporting channels to make an initial report.

The Metropolitan Police host the reporting service for all UK Police Forces. In the first instance a person reporting a war crime to Police Scotland will be encouraged to make an initial report utilising the link below and upload any evidence they are in possession of such as mobile phone footage.

Met Police: Report a War Crime

The above link can also be used independently of Police Scotland by any person who wishes to report war crimes they have evidence of or have witnessed.

Officers from Police Scotland will ensure that all necessary safeguarding or victim care measures are put in place.

There is the potential that Rape or other Serious Sexual Crime could be reported as a War Crime. Protocols for officers from Police Scotland responding to a crime of this nature will follow existing practices with prioritisation given to the welfare of victims, provision of specialist support and where appropriate the capture of forensic evidence.

Public protection governance: responsibilities of Chief Officer Groups, Adult and Child Protection Committees

Chief Officer Groups (COGs) oversee local public protection arrangements and the assessment and response to risk, vulnerability and protection across the 32 local partnership areas. Chief Officers, in the context of child and adult protection, are the Chief Executives of Local Authorities, the Chief Executives of Health Boards and Police Scotland Divisional Commanders. Chief Officers, both individually and collectively, are responsible for the leadership, direction and scrutiny of child and adult protection services and public protection more broadly. COGs provide multi-agency public protection management oversight, assurance and governance across all age groups. Chief Social Work Officers (CSWO) also have a prominent role in public protection arrangements. CSWOs work closely with COGs, as well as with other agencies crucial to public protection.

Chief Officers can support practitioners to adapt to different and flexible ways of working to enable the continued identification and support of children, young people and adults at risk in a range of ways. COGs are crucial to enable practitioners to implement a range of innovative practices to promote efficient, holistic risk assessment and risk management. The multi-agency oversight of COGs should ensure collaboration with key partners to local safeguarding, including Community Planning Partnerships, Community Safety Partnership Hubs, Housing, education, health, social work and the third sector.

Child Protection and Adult Support and Protection Committees are the multi-agency partnerships responsible for monitoring and advising on procedures and practice, ensuring appropriate cooperation between agencies and improving the skills and knowledge of those with a responsibility for the protection of children and young people and adults at risk. The Committees’ multi-agency structures may assist in the current response to the identification and safeguarding of displaced people.

At a time of unprecedented pressures, clear ownership and accountability by Chief Officers, with the support of CSWOs, continues to be required to ensure that protecting children and adults at risk of harm remains a priority within and across agencies. 

Chief Officers’ collective leadership and collaborative decision-making are fundamental to prompt, safe and functional continued adaptation. Assessment and planning processes and the way services work together must be agreed and understood by all partners. Effective and inclusive communications and partnership working will assist in understanding the potential complex referrals and demands on health and social care services. 



Back to top