Safeguarding the Children in Scotland Who May Have
The UNISON Scotland Submission June 2008
UNISON Scotland is the largest public sector trade
union in Scotland representing over 160,000 members. UNISON represents
social care workers in the public and voluntary sector and so welcomes
the opportunity to contribute to this consultation on Safeguarding
the children in Scotland who may have been trafficked.
Response to consultation
Question 1 - Is this guidance fit for purpose for
UNISON Scotland welcomes the thrust this guidance
and its clear aim to ensure that the welfare of the child is paramount.
We welcome the clearly stated support from the Scottish Government
for the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
and the focus on the need for efficient and co-operative assessment
and planning to promote and support the rights of children, and
to identify and assess their needs.
We are pleased that it is located firmly within the
framework of Scottish domestic legislation with its welfare and
children's rights focus; and we welcome the statements throughout
this document which provide guidance on using the provisions of
the Children (Scotland) Act to support and protect children and
to promote their welfare, regardless of their immigration status.
The information in the guidance on child trafficking
provides a helpful framework to understand the issues, especially
for staff who may not come across this on a day-to-day basis. We
find the detailed information on the likely impact of trafficking
on children and the kind of support they may require, particularly
helpful and are pleased that this considers the emotional and psychological
impact on a child's health and welfare as well as the impact of
physical and sexual abuse.
The guidance would benefit from a clearer acknowledgement
that it is important not to exacerbate the impact of such abuse
on a child by an insensitive or heavy-handed response from the authorities,
by, for example, pushing these children to tell their stories before
they can feel secure enough to do so or responding with disbelief
etc. We know that children who are victims of abuse need time to
trust and to feel secure in adults' ability to protect them before
they can fully disclose.
The information sharing section, though brief, is
helpfully underpinned by the welfare principle and the importance
of taking the child's views into account and informing the child
when information has been shared without their consent. The guidance
would benefit from inclusion of when it may be appropriate to seek
informed consent from a child or other data subject. UNISON believes
a shorter "working guidance" document would also be useful
to sit alongside the fuller guidance.
Question 2 - Are you confident that using this
guidance would help to identify, assess and support any trafficked
children in your area?
The guidance is very helpful and UNISON believes that
using it will assist practitioners. However, it will be very important
to do more than just hand out a written document. The guidance is
for use by a range of different professionals, some of whom have
some experience of working together, some of whom do not. It will
be important to ensure that all these professionals are aware of
their duties and responsibilities; and that they have a shared understanding
of the guidance and the practice implications for their particular
role. Local Authority will have to do more than hand out the guidance.
They must provide multi-agency training as one element of Child
We have also identified areas of the guidance that
need greater clarification and fuller guidance and these are detailed
under Question 5 below.
Question 3 - Have we scoped all the agencies likely
to come into contact with children who may have been trafficked?
It may be that these children will come to the attention
of voluntary organisations first so it may be helpful to include
them in the guidance.
Question 4 - Are you content with the actions required
of agencies outlined within this section?
Yes but see Question 5 below for fuller comments and
Question 5 - Will there be any difficulty with
incorporating the actions outlined into local procedures?
Although we fully support the actions outlined for
local authority social work staff it is important to recognise that
there will be resource implications in implementing this guidance.
As stated above, there will be a need for training on the specific
issues around trafficked children and on the procedures outlined
in the guidance.
UNISON agrees with the requirement that a qualified
and experienced social worker should lead an initial assessment,
but there are still too few experienced staff in many of the teams
dealing with child protection across Scotland. This is a resource
issue that will limit some authorities' ability to implement the
guidance in full, and needs to be recognised and addressed in workforce
We agree wholeheartedly that it takes time to build
up trust with these children. This is potentially resource intensive.
Our members are continually raising concerns about time pressures
arising from heavy caseloads, administrative duties and ‘target'
based and inspection dictated functions that deflect from their
ability to work as directly and intensively with children.
We support fully the need to provide trafficked children
with a safe and confidential placement if this is necessary for
their safety and protection and in reality, most, if not all trafficked
children will require a care placement of some sort for a period
of time, which meets their assessed needs. This has resource implications
for local authorities. Many authorities struggle at present to meet
the accommodation needs of their current population of looked-after-children
and young people and would face serious difficulties in finding
additional placements at all, never mind the specialist placements
needed to meet the needs of trafficked children. A targeted recruitment
campaign is essential and this will need investment.
There is a requirement in the guidance that where
a child has "immigration issues" United Kingdom Borders
Agency should be informed, "so that they can co-ordinate immigration
processes within the recommended child's plan." We would welcome
further clarification of what this will mean in practice, how the
two processes (the welfare focussed planning for the child and the
immigration processes) will fit together and what will take precedence.
It is our view that the child's best interests should take
There also needs to be recognition that many of these
children will have well-grounded deep suspicion of authorities and
any actions the child may take need to be assessed in that context
rather than held against them.
UNISON believes that there are significant resource
implications in this document. For example, we agree that there
needs to be access to approved, independent, professional interpreters
with the necessary training, checks and safeguards to protect children.
However, our experience is that these are not currently in place
nor readily accessible across Scotland. If they are to be involved
in supporting disclosures from children who may have been sexually
abused, they will need additional training in this area, with an
ability to use comfortably the appropriate sexual terminology.
The guidance, while recognising that child witnesses
face many difficulties including fear of deportation, stops short
of identifying any means to protect children from deportation if
they come forward. Perhaps this is out with the remit of this document
but it would have been helpful to include the circumstances that
qualify for immunity from deportation.
The guidance states that if the trafficked child's
asylum application fails there will need to be a risk assessment
of the dangers a child might face if repatriated. We are concerned
that it does not clarify how to achieve this. It is essential that
any such assessment is robust and has the welfare of the child at
its centre. There will be a need to consider how appropriate assessments
can take place in the child's country of origin to ensure the child's
welfare and safety within their family and community.
There are grounds for concern about how assessments
take place in countries to which children are returned, about the
support for children and their families and the training and qualifications
of the people undertaking the assessment. For example, a child sold
by their parents and subsequently trafficked may have a different
reunification with their parents from a child who sent by their
parents to escape traumatic experiences like war or persecution.
Social workers will need to be confident that the
child is returning to a welcoming and supportive environment and
that they will not suffer further harm or abuse. To ensure this,
social workers will need support and empowerment.
It is UNISON's view that it would only be appropriate
for a social worker to support a child to return to their country
of origin, as is suggested, if the assessment of the child's needs
demonstrates that this is in the child's best interests. To make
a full assessment there will need to be in place the mechanisms
to avoid placing the child at further risk in their country of origin
and to ensure their welfare needs will be met. We believe that further
and more specific guidance is necessary.
UNISON Scotland welcomes this guidance and the clear
commitment of the Scottish government to the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child. The true test of the guidance will be how it
works in practice. The guidance requires proper introduction with
appropriate staff training and development. There may be a need
for more specialist child-protection staff and extra accommodation.
This requires extra resources for all agencies dealing with child
protection. Without the extra resources, the guidance will not fulfill
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835
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