Child asylum seekers are being denied vital services, warns UNISON

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 6 November 2017 in News

UNISON Scotland and the Scottish Association of Social Work issue guidance to social workers on dealing with "intrinsically oppressive" immigration system

Image credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

People seeking asylum in Scotland, including children, are being denied vital services because of inadequate support from social work, UNISON Scotland has warned.

Releasing a new a legal guide for practitioners, UNISON Scotland and the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) said that even when social workers request vital services for asylum seekers they are often wrongly denied.

The guide, ‘Refugee and Asylum in Scotland: Social work support a human right not an administrative burden’, aims to provide clarification to social workers on what the SASW described as a “very complex and previously ambiguous area of practice”.


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The guidance says: “It is clear that progressive Scottish legislation, designed to meet and support the needs of children with the central principle that the child’s welfare is paramount, is compromised by immigration legislation. This is the greatest dilemma for social workers – acting as part of a system that seems intrinsically oppressive.”

It also advises social workers that they “should not collude with practices and processes that do not have childrens’ interests at their heart” and that “it is not a social work role to put a humane face on inhumane processes”.

Stephen Smellie, convener of UNISON social work committee said: “It is increasingly common for social workers across Scotland to have to intervene in the lives of asylum seekers and their children, who have come to this country from devastated areas of the world. For many social workers this is complex legal framework which is new to them. It can be distressing to be caring for such vulnerable children who are denied the vital support they need.

“The guide we are launching today provides general guidance, signposts and more detailed information sources.  It will give social workers more confidence that they are doing the right thing, especially for vulnerable asylum seeker children. It will be a useful tool for negotiating with employers to ensure that the right resources are put in place, including awareness training and staffing.”

Emily Galloway, communications and policy officer at SASW, said: "This guidance seeks to update and support social workers at all levels on how to support asylum seeking families in Scotland – a very complex and previously ambiguous area of practice that has become increasingly prevalent across the country"

"It's really important that our social workers are fully informed about relevant legislation and people rights in all situations. They have a responsibility in their codes of practice and professional ethics, to make the right professional decisions and also to work with their employers to enable people's rights and entitlements"

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