Planning is ongoing in anticipation of the arrival of increasing numbers of vulnerable children and adults into Scotland from Ukraine. The precise number of likely arrivals is unclear and the levels of support will vary greatly and depend on individual circumstances, including health and wellbeing on arrival; who, if anyone, accompanies the children; the immigration route through which they arrive; and where they will be accommodated during their stay. The Scottish Government has developed and published the People arriving from Ukraine - risk and need: public protection guidance for all those involved in the resettlement of vulnerable people from Ukraine and those providing ongoing services.
The vast majority of children will arrive with family members who are able to safeguard and meet their needs with minimal support and signposting. Likewise, Adults with additional support needs, including adults at risk of harm, may be travelling with carers (relatives or others) who are able to safeguard and meet their needs with minimal support.
Inevitably there will also be children and adults whose needs were previously met within their communities and may require formal support and safeguarding within Scotland, depending on their circumstances on arrival, including proximity of accommodation to their informal support networks. Identifying needs and concern will require a level of immediate assessment and follow up support.
It is essential that unaccompanied children are identified as being amongst the most vulnerable refugees. The specific assessment experience and support frameworks for supporting Unaccompanied Children already sit within local social work departments. It is essential that these children are deemed at immediate risk of harm and referred for the immediate attention of the local authority social work department.
The legal framework underpinning the provision of care, protection and accommodation in Scotland for Unaccompanied Children is outlined in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (“the 1995 Act”) which provides the legal framework for looked after children and care leavers in Scotland. Therefore, 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, specifics of which are outlined under section 17 of the 1995 Act.
When we refer to unaccompanied children, in this context, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 refers to a “Child”, as any person under age 18.
Children travelling with adults without legal guardianship
A particular vulnerable group are children arriving with adults who are not their legal guardian. Dynamics will vary child by child; the adults may be family friends already known to the child or well-meaning Ukrainians with no prior relationships who have agreed to help the child reach the UK. Scotland is committed to ensuring that all children travelling with ‘kinship’ caring arrangements continue with this caring relationship, where it is safe to do so.
Whilst in the majority of cases, these arrangements will be made with the best of intentions, there are very real risks around the arrangement breaking down if not supported.
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 very real risk of significant harm. As such where ‘tenuous links’ between the child and their accompanying adult exist, assessment will be essential to, as far as possible, ensure the child is safe and the longer term suitability of the care arrangement. Such assessment, without background checks, will require the assessment skills and professional judgement of experienced children and families social workers and appropriately trained staff.
As with the response to Unaccompanied Children, those identified as having unsafe ‘tenuous links’ to kinships carers are likely to require to be provided with care and accommodation by the local authority. This will mean that these children will become looked after children. The local authority will therefore likely have a duty under the section 25 of ‘the 1995 act’ to provide accommodation and care for these children, where no alternative can be found.
The Scottish Government is seeking confirmation from the UK Government that full funding will be made available for looked after children.
Adult support and protection
People from the Ukraine who are deemed to be at risk of harm will be treated the same as any other adult at risk of harm in Scotland, as per the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007. Statutory responsibility for undertaking ASP inquiries rests with the local authority where the adult who may be at risk of harm is. Local partnerships and Adult Protection Committees are already taking action to ensure that adults at risk of harm are protected. This should involve all of the key agencies, and include consideration of any necessary enhancements to local processes, and the communication of any changes to the workforce and wider community.
Services and staff should be alert to signs that individuals or groups are using the current crisis as an opportunity to harm people including, but not limited to, unlawfully and adversely affecting the adult’s property, rights or interests and sexual, physical and psychological harm.
Providers who deliver health and social care services have a duty to ensure adults at risk of harm, as defined by section 3 of the 2007 Act, are not placed at risk of harm by delays in care, support or protection planning. All those providing support, and particularly those named in section 5 of the 2007 Act, must ensure that staff, including volunteers, are adult protection aware in order that they can recognise harm, abuse or neglect, and respond appropriately.
Streamlined measures when engaging volunteers or those new to social care front line provision may be useful e.g. deployment of the SSSC Adult Support and Protection mobile application
Consideration should be given by Adult Protection Committees and Health and Social Care Partnerships to the provision of Basic or Intermediate levels of Adult Support and Protection training for those involved in resettlement activity. This should promote awareness raising of adults at risk and referral pathways.
When undertaking Child or Adult Support and Protection procedures, sensitivity around the use of family members as interpreters is recommended. For more information see: Adult Support and Protection revised Code of Practice
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