Unaccompanied children and young people
On this page:
- unaccompanied children arriving outside of the Homes for Ukraine scheme
- unaccompanied children already in Scotland
- unaccompanied children and young people - Homes for Ukraine scheme
A particularly vulnerable group are children arriving with adults who are not their parent or legal guardian. Dynamics will vary child by child; the adults may be family friends already known to the child, or well-meaning adults with no prior relationships who have agreed to help the child reach the UK. Scotland is committed to ensuring that all children travelling unaccompanied continue to be cared for by familiar adults, where it is safe to do so. It is essential that children travelling with adults who are not their parents or legal guardians are identified early so that early oversight and ongoing monitoring of arrangements occurs.
When we refer to unaccompanied children, the 1995 Act refers to a Child as any person under age 18. Unaccompanied refers to the absence of a parent or legal guardian who has the legal parental rights and responsibilities in respect of a child. An unaccompanied child may therefore be travelling with an adult who is known to them, such as a relative, extended family member or family friend. They may also be travelling alongside an adult who has provided support and care for them during displacement but has no pre-war connection; or they may arrive entirely alone.
It is expected that most children and young people who are unaccompanied on arrival into Scotland will have been granted permission to travel under the extension to the Homes for Ukraine scheme introduced in July 2022. This route includes formal parental/guardian consent and completion of assessment and checks prior to travel. Children and young people arriving through this route are considered to be living in a private fostering arrangement. Further information is provided below in the unaccompanied children and young people - Homes for Ukraine scheme. It is recognised, however, that there may be circumstances in which children and young people arrive unaccompanied outside of this route.
Assistance and support for hosts
Whilst in many cases, arrangements will have been made with the best of intentions, there are very real risks around arrangements breaking down if not supported. Children and the people they are residing with may require assistance and guidance in practical matters, as well as emotional support to provide the care that the child needs. Central to this is the child’s views and particular attention should be paid to helping adults hear the child’s voice. Ongoing professional assessment of the presenting relationships and available background information will be vital to ensure children’s safety and wellbeing.
Since the beginning of the conflict, work has been underway with operational partners across Scotland, including Border Force, regarding the identification of unaccompanied children arriving from Ukraine.
It is vital that robust processes continue to ensure vulnerable children are identified and where necessary suitable accommodation and welfare provision is provided.
It is therefore essential that unaccompanied children are identified as being amongst the most vulnerable displaced people. The specific assessment experience and support frameworks for supporting these children lies with the local social work department. It is essential that these children are deemed at immediate risk of harm and established processes to ensure they are safe and cared for are actioned.
It is possible that a child travelling alone has either an adult coming to collect them or plans to wait for an adult to meet them in Scotland. In such cases, the support remains with the local social work office, who will ensure the child is cared for whilst they await the arrival of their parent or carer. Local authorities should undertake an assessment of the care-giving arrangement before allowing the child to travel with the adult. The unaccompanied child screening form (supporting documents) helps to ensure all relevant details are captured for the purpose of assessment in these circumstances and has been compiled to support practitioners with this initial assessment.
Unaccompanied children should never be transported via normal hub arrangements or be offered welcome accommodation. Movement of the child or young person beyond their arrival point should only occur with the oversight and full support of the local social work office.
Unaccompanied children from Ukraine who do not arrive through the Homes for Ukraine extension scheme 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.
In these circumstances, local authority assessments should consider the relationship between any accompanying adult and the child and whether supporting the care arrangement is appropriate and safe to continue. Without background checks, this will require the skills and professional judgement of experienced children and families social workers. Whilst likely a minority of cases, there is the very real risk that the person offering this care is not well intended and the child is at risk of significant harm.
It is essential that the child is given an opportunity to speak privately with the assessing social worker, who will explore with them their understanding, feelings and any safety concerns regarding the proposed care arrangement. Assessments should also consider the impact of separation, and the wishes of the child and adult caregiver regarding continuation of the care arrangement. They will require continued review and ongoing support.
Where it has been assessed as appropriate to continue with the arrangement, the section below provides further detail on how to proceed, including securing formal parental consentShould local authorities consider that this route is not appropriate, they should take measures to provide accommodation for the child.
If the child has an accepted proof of age (i.e. a passport, Ukrainian identity card or UK Government issued visa) then an age assessment will not be required. However, in certain circumstances age assessment may need to be conducted (i.e. the child has arrived via an irregular immigration route). In such instances the Scottish Government’s Age Assessment: Practical Guidance must be followed.
Some children and young people who are unaccompanied may already be in Scotland. The UK Government has developed guidance (currently unpublished) for situations in which local authorities find that they have a child or young person living in their area without their parent or legal guardian. Please contact Ukraine Children and Families Response Team (UkraineCandFResponseTeam@gov.scot) to receive this.
The extension to the Homes for Ukraine Scheme permits entry to the UK for some children and young people who are not travelling with, or joining, their parent or legal guardian.
The spirit of this route is based upon pre-existing, pre-war, private family arrangements and requires all safeguarding checks and assessment to be undertaken prior to any visa or permission to travel being issued.
The extension to the Homes for Ukraine scheme is phased. The first phase to be progressed includes applications on behalf of children and young people to come to the UK prior to the extension being launched. These individuals were identified as being unaccompanied by UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) and their applications were put ‘on hold’ until the policy was developed.
UKVI have contacted the adults who applied on behalf of these children and young people (either their legal guardian or their prospective host) to ascertain whether they wish to travel through this scheme, whether they have made alternative arrangements in the interim, or any other circumstantial change has impacted their application. Following confirmation, UKVI will update their records to either progress the application or remove it from their systems.
The second phase is for any new applicants to the scheme, applying after 28 July 2022. New applications made after this date will have a different process to manage the interaction of the UKVI checks and local authority checks necessary. Further information for Scottish local authorities is available in 'New applications'.
Effect on the Scottish Super Sponsor Scheme
The Scottish Super Sponsor Scheme allows an individual to apply to the Homes for Ukraine scheme using Scottish Government as the named host. A central matching system then matches the applicant with a host who has passed safeguarding checks.
The Scottish Super Sponsor Scheme will not be available to new applications through this route because there is a requirement for a pre-existing relationship within the eligibility criteria.
Applications already made to the Scottish Super Sponsor Scheme for children and young people travelling without being accompanied by a parent or legal guardian are subject to assessment on an individual, case by case basis. Scottish Government officials are currently developing the detail around this, and further information will be made available in due course.
The immigration rules for this route are at the discretion of the UK Government and may be subject to change. Children and young people arriving under this scheme will be able to live in the UK for up to 3 years and access education, healthcare, benefits, employment (as appropriate under UK law) and other support
This guidance sets out how the Scottish Government, in partnership with COSLA, expects this scheme to operate in Scotland. It should be read in conjunction with the latest version of the Homes for Ukraine guidance on the UK Government website and the chapters on Disclosure Checks and Home Checks.
Applications made before 15 July 2022
The UK Government published guidance for local authorities in the four nations of the UK in relation to the processing of existing Homes for Ukraine applications made for children who are not travelling with or to a parent or legal guardian under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
This Scottish Government guidance provides additional information for local authorities in Scotland to supplement the UK guidance and details the specific Scottish arrangements needed to implement the route safely in a Scottish context.
Further guidance and information published by the UK Government and relevant to the processing of applications for this route includes:
Scotland specific information
The UK Guidance is broadly relevant to Scotland, although written for local authorities in England. The section ‘Eligibility criteria’ and the information about ‘Approving sponsors’ in the UK guidance are relevant to Scotland. Some details relating to the application of the guidance in Scotland arising from legislation, checks and processes required, differ in Scotland. These are outlined below.
The Foundry data system referred to in the UK guidance is not used in Scotland. Data transfers to local authorities will take place using Objective Connect in line with current Homes for Ukraine data processes in Scotland.
An email will be sent to a named individual within the local authority to notify them of this data upload. These data transfers will include the application information and the parental consent forms and local authority forms detailed in the UK guidance. Combined, this information provides the referral to local authorities to undertake the assessment of the proposed arrangement.
This route is interactive by design and requires local authorities to notify UKVI when the checks and host suitability assessment have been concluded. UKVI will then decide whether a child or young person receives permission to travel.
Local authorities should send confirmation that the local authority has conducted the necessary checks and host suitability assessment, including the outcome of this to HFUUpdates-Minors@homeoffice.gov.uk. The Scottish Government's children and families Ukraine mailbox – UkraineCandFResponseTeam@gov.scot – should be copied in to this email.
In the subject line of the email, local authorities should include:
HFU Updates – Minors GWFxxxxxxxxx – Scottish Government - LA Check Results Date xx/xx/xxxx
Approving sponsors in Scotland - assessing needs
All children and young people displaced from Ukraine and travelling without their parent/legal guardian are vulnerable and therefore considered as children in need within Section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
In all circumstances, the Girfec National Practice Model provides local authorities with the appropriate assessment framework to inform their decision making about the circumstances of an individual child or young person’s needs and proposed available supports.
Scottish local authorities must complete checks for this new Homes for Ukraine route in line with the current Disclosure Checks and Home Checks and the Private fostering in Scotland guidance. This includes:
Disclosure Scotland PVG and/or Enhanced Disclosure of household members
a check of Local Authority systems on prospective hosts and household members
GP Health Check
Within The Foster Children (Private Fostering) (Scotland) Regulations 1985, there is a requirement for local authorities to make enquiries to the child’s home local authority to ascertain whether they know of any reason why the arrangements should not go ahead.
In the current circumstances of armed conflict in Ukraine, and as the UK Government have developed the route in discussion with Ukraine officials, the notarised parental consent forms, UKVI checks and information provided in the sponsorship form is greater than might usually be available.
The notarised parental consent form must be certified by the local authorities in Ukraine or another country in which the child is living or by the Ukrainian Consulate. This document should therefore be considered as the ‘home’ local authority check.
Where local authorities consider they require further information about a child’s home circumstances, they may contact the Ukrainian authorities using the Scottish Government Central Authority. The Central Authority can connect directly on your behalf with the Central Authority of Ukraine to seek information from Child Welfare services in Ukraine. The email address for the Scottish Government Central Authority is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
References within the Foster Children (Private Fostering) (Scotland) Regulations 1985 to UKBA checks for foreign nationals should be read as the checks which will be undertaken by UKVI.
Within this scheme extension, the host, having directly connected and applied with the parent or guardian is the responsible person in the UK and therefore should be assessed as a private foster carer. This includes circumstances where the child is accompanied by a known adult, including where the accompanying adult has responsibility for the child’s or young person’s day to day care.
In instances where the child or young person is accompanied by a relative, it is important that local authorities discuss the situation fully with the host. The arrangement should be considered within the initial host assessment and reviewed in subsequent visits to understand how well it is working and any support required.
The private fostering framework only applies to children up to 16 (or 18 for children with a disability), and where the child is not being accommodated by a parent or legal guardian (or other person with parental responsibility) or a relative (as defined in the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984).
However, given the additional vulnerability of this group of children and young people, local authorities are asked to carry out these assessments for all children arriving in Scotland under this expanded scheme. These duties align with the GIRFEC framework and also highlight the importance of creating and maintaining records, including a child’s plan.
The legislation governing the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the provision of the care of children in private fostering arrangements in Scotland is detailed in the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984 and The Foster Children (Private Fostering) (Scotland) Regulations 1985.
The UK guidance for this route, specifically the section Approving sponsors also sets out the requirement for a suitability assessment.
Host suitability assessment
For all hosts, the information contained in the Sponsor suitability assessment section In the UK Guidance provides context to some of the complexities to be considered.
Local authorities are asked to make a decision about the suitability of the arrangement and where they agree to accept it, they are also agreeing to provide alternative care for the child or young person in the event the arrangement ends.
Where the local authority assessment is that the arrangement is not suitable, they may decline to accept it. In both circumstances, the local authority is providing their decision about the suitability of the arrangement to the UK Government.
Suitability assessments in relation to applications under this route must be undertaken by registered social workers. Scottish local authorities have skilled staff experienced in using established local procedures to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children and young people in their area in line with their duties and responsibilities under Sections 22 and 23A of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
Where children are accompanied by a relative or known adult and plan to live with them within a host household, the suitability assessment must still be carried out for the host in line with the Private fostering in Scotland guidance. The assessment should take into consideration the parent’s wishes for the day to day care of the child in these circumstances. This will be indicated in section 2 of the UK Sponsorship arrangement consent form.
It is recommended that contingency plans are discussed by the parent/legal guardian and host when planning the application. Local authorities should discuss these during host suitability assessments and consider how robust these are, offering advice and guidance to hosts and parent/guardian where they deem this is necessary. Next of kin details are included in the UK Sponsorship Arrangement Consent Form.
Whilst the basis for this route is a private arrangement made by, and with the consent of, a parent or legal guardian, local authority oversight of the sponsorship arrangement is required in line with private fostering duties.
The UK guidance suggests a framework for safe travel and it is recommended that Scottish local authorities consider the arrangements being proposed for the child’s travel to Scotland as part of their host suitability assessment, in order to offer advice and guidance to hosts and parent or guardian so that they can arrange safe passage for their children and young people.
Whilst not static, the risk to children and young people who are travelling alone are heightened. The trafficking section of this document contains further information about the risks and effects for children and young people.
Local authorities, having provided advice and guidance regarding safe travel routes should also satisfy themselves about plans for the child’s arrival into Scotland. Children and young people must be immediately met and supported to their onward destination by their host, and where the local authority considers this appropriate, their representative.
Where local authority representatives do not attend to meet the child or young person, confirmation of their safe arrival should be made by the host to the local authority. This confirmation must take place within 24 hours.
Where confirmation occurs outside business hours or over a weekend, local authorities should use existing procedures, for example by ensuring the Host has access to contact details for the out of hours or duty social work service. Local authority representatives should visit the child or young person and their host in the home within 24 hours of being so notified.
Supporting post-arrival and ongoing checks
Children and young people travelling via this route are likely to have experienced trauma as a result of their separation from their parent or legal guardian and from the impact of living in an environment experiencing armed conflict. Their individual needs and histories have also influenced their development.
The capacity of hosts to meet their young guest’s needs will become clearer following their arrival and as the relationships and dynamics in the household develop. This means that each arrangement will require differing forms and levels of support, guidance and advice.
To mitigate some of the pressures local authority social work services currently experience, we are in discussion with the Scottish Guardianship Service, who may be able to provide support to children and young people arriving through this route.
Whilst this will not usually require access to legal services because children and young people will have secured immigration visas, their support, knowledge and information networks will be available for children, young people, adult caregivers and local authority staff to access.
Aberlour Child Care Trust have also agreed to develop a register of registered social workers employed in the third sector and who can be contacted by local authorities on an ad-hoc basis to undertake host suitability assessments on their behalf and under their supervision.
Private Fostering regulations indicate that a minimum frequency of visits is undertaken by the local authority. For the purposes of this route, local authorities should visit the child or young person within their caregiving arrangement on a 6 weekly basis within the first year; and 3 monthly in subsequent years.
The UK Guidance suggests that parents should notify sponsors in the event they wish the arrangement to cease, and relies upon the sponsor informing the local authority.
When carrying out the host suitability assessment, the importance of informing the local authority immediately of any significant change to the child or young person’s arrangements - whether planned or unplanned - should be emphasised. Social workers will also wish to assess the strength of contingency arrangements proposed by parent/guardian in the event of a child or young person’s arrangement ending.
Ending sponsorship arrangements provides further information on how to respond in circumstances, including when the child or young person is:
moving outside of the UK
moving to a new hosting arrangement
joined by their parent/legal guardian
having reached 18, wishes to live independently
In all circumstances, local authorities should always follow their local processes to ensure that children’s needs are met.
The parent or legal guardian has made assurances that they are acting in the best interest of their child and have fully discussed the arrangement with the host, confirming this within the signed parental consent form.
The local authority should work through the confirmation form with hosts and ask them to sign to demonstrate their understanding of their role and responsibility for the child. The confirmation form for hosts makes clear that the local authority should be informed of any changes of circumstance.
Where local authorities consider that it is in the child or young person’s best interest to take measures to protect their welfare and provide accommodation for the child, as set out in the accompanied children section, this is likely to be under section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
Where any child or young person arriving in Scotland under this (or any other) route becomes looked after, the local authority should make direct notification to the Ukraine Consul General in Edinburgh. Notification should be sent to: email@example.com and copied copied to the Scottish Government at UkraineChildrenLookedAfter@gov.scot.
Scottish Ministers have provided assurances to Ukraine that international conventions in respect of their displaced children and young people will be upheld. This means that in the event children and young people require alternative care, notification will be made to the Consulate and adoption will not be progressed. This was communicated to all local authorities in a letter from the Minister for Children and Young People, Ms Haughey, of 30 March 2022.
Further information that may be helpful to local authorities, and partners, discharging safeguarding duties relating to children who have moved across borders is available in the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland, 2021; specifically, paragraphs 4.316 and 4.317 within the section on ‘Children and young people who are missing’.
Education, Health and Housing are devolved matters and therefore references within the UK guidance to these matters are addressed specifically within Scottish Government Homes for Ukraine guidance for local authorities. This guidance also sets out the position in Scotland for welfare benefits, including those delivered by Social Security Scotland.
Details of funding are detailed within the UK guidance and apply equally to Scottish local authorities. The mechanisms by which the funding will be delivered for Scotland will be confirmed in due course.
The UK Government amended their guidance for local authorities in the four nations of the UK in relation to the processing of new applications to this Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
The process for new applications is different and requires the prospective host to first undergo safeguarding checks before an eligible child can begin their visa application. Prospective hosts of eligible children can now start their applications via a new online service. This enables local authorities to begin their safeguarding checks. The visa application process will open to new applicants from eligible children.
Definitions and Scottish equivalents
Throughout the UK guidance, reference is made to legislation and processes, some of these differ in within the Scottish context.
‘Child’ or ‘children’ refers to any individual who is under 18 who has already applied for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme who is not travelling with or joining a parent or legal guardian. This includes both children who will be accompanied by an adult relative and those who are intending to be hosted by an adult relative as well as those for whom where neither applies. Where relevant the guidance distinguishes between these groups.
‘DBS checks’ - throughout the UK guidance, reference is made to DBS checks – the Scottish equivalent for these is Disclosure Scotland checks (including PVG/enhanced disclosure etc.). The relevant check for this route must align to the private fostering regulations, which is a PVG scheme membership. Where hosts are outside of private fostering regulations, guidance relevant to Homes for Ukraine checks in Scotland should be used.
‘Foundry’ - as noted in the Data section, Foundry is not used in Scotland. Information will be received from the Home Office through Objective Connect (as with all Homes for Ukraine applications). Further detail will be provided on how information should be relayed back to UKVI on the completion of checks.
‘Host/s’ refers to an individual, group or organisation who has been approved to accommodate an individual or household from Ukraine under the “Homes for Ukraine” sponsorship scheme, or has agreed to participate in the Scottish Super Sponsor scheme. Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme a person individually matched may be referred to as a ‘sponsor/s’.
‘Parental responsibility’ is defined under Part 1, Section 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
Any reference to ‘Private Fostering Regulations’ or ‘Frameworks’ should be taken to mean the Foster Children (Private Fostering) (Scotland) Regulations 1985
References to ‘Section 20 of the Children Act (1989)’ should be taken to mean the meaning of Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
‘Relative’ – is defined in section 21 of the Foster Children (Scotland ) Act 1984 - in relation to a child, means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt whether of the full blood or half blood or by affinity.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback