Asylum seekers in Scotland are denied social work services, say UNISON and Scottish Association of Social Work


thumbnail of refugee and asylum seeker good practice guide (webversion) finalAsylum seekers in Scotland do not get the support services they are entitle to because of inadequate support for social workers who care for them. And, when social workers request vital services for asylum seekers they are often, wrongly, denied.

Today (Monday 6 November) UNISON Scotland and Scottish Association of Social Work have launched a legal guide Refugee and Asylum in Scotland: Social work support a human right not an administrative burden to provide social workers with the legal advice and information they need to ensure  asylum seekers get services they are entitled to.

Most concerning for social workers is that many vulnerable asylum seeker children do not get the support they need.  Many children arrive legally through government sponsored relocation schemes, some come with their families, some arrive as unaccompanied children. But others arrive illegally through their own efforts, or through deliberate trafficking to work in illegal settings such as cannabis farms or the sex industry, or even legal settings such as nail bars, hotels or private homes. These vulnerable children need social work support services.

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”

The guide is focused on asylum seekers, refugees from Syria who are being relocated in Scotland and migrants from EU countries, who face uncertainties as well as increases in racism and hate crime.

Editor’s notes

•  UNISON is the trade union for social work. UNISON is one of the UK’s largest trade unions, serving more than 1.3 million members. We represent full-time and part-time staff who provide public services.

•  Scottish Association of Social Work, part of British Association of Social Work, is the largest professional association for social work in the UK. Whatever your background or specialism, we are here to support, advise and protect you at work because we know how challenging each day can be. We offer a free advice service and representation before your regulatory body

UNISON contact details

Stephen Smellie: 07740 096 864

Joe Lynch: 07958 121 063

Danny Phillips: 07944 664 110