Guardianship scheme helps traumatised young asylum seekers rebuild their lives

Media Release

Embargo: 00:00, Thursday, 9 February

Guardianship scheme helps traumatised young asylum seekers rebuild their lives

The Scottish Guardianship Service has supported almost 90 traumatised young people seeking asylum, helping them to take control and rebuild their lives, a conference will hear today (Thursday, Feb 9).

The 30-month long pilot service – delivered by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Childcare Trust - was launched by Mike Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, in June 2010.

It provides each asylum seeker child arriving alone from outside of Europe with a Guardian who will act as an independent advocate as they make their way through the complex and often harrowing asylum process. 

The service is funded by the Scottish Government, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Big Lottery Fund. Kathleen Marshall, the former Children’s Commissioner in Scotland will today take up her post as chair of the Project Advisory Group.

According to an independent evaluation of the service by Professors Heaven Crawley and Ravi Kohli, also launched at the conference, all of the young people were totally or very satisfied with the help they received from their Guardians.

The children accessing the service currently come from 14 countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Gambia, Iran and Vietnam. The youngest child is 14 years old, although the majority are between 16-17 years old.

The evaluation illustrated an increase in the number of young people – 34% compared with 25% the previous year - being granted refugee status.  More work will be done in the coming year to look at the role of Guardianship in this increase.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy and Communications for Scottish Refugee Council, said: “As we start the final year of the pilot of the Guardianship service, we can see the real and lasting impact that the independent guardians have had on the lives of vulnerable children seeking asylum."

“Yet this pilot project has not been without its challenges and over the last year we have worked hard with other agencies involved in the care of these young people to try and help them to understand the role of the Guardians and use the service affectively.”

Jackie Hothersall, Director of Children & Family Services for Aberlour Child Care Trust, said: “Though the results of the pilot have been very positive, it has demonstrated that there is a real need for the establishment of a permanent Guardianship Service.

“The service has provided invaluable support and assistance to young people who have often had traumatic, difficult and dangerous journeys to get this far, and can then be overwhelmed by the bureaucracy of the asylum system.

“The Scottish Guardianship Service has been able to help and assist them, but we must not lose oversight of this issue, which will not be easily solved.  We must continue to support these young people and help to offer them a brighter future.”

Kathleen Marshall, Chair of the Scottish Guardianship Service Project Advisory Board, said: “These are young people who arrive not knowing who they can trust. They have perhaps been forced into cover stories by those who have brought them here, they are afraid extremely cautious about revealing anything that might put them in danger.

“What they really value is someone who is willing to go the extra mile, to show that they are really deserving of their trust. It is this sort of person that they might open up to.

“The evaluation shows that the Guardians have been able to do just that, and that in turn has allowed the young people to fully engage and participate in the asylum process.”


For more information contact: Karin Goodwin, Scottish Refugee Council Media and Communications Officer on 0141 223 7927 / 07850930418 or email

Notes to editors

  • The Scottish Guardianship Pilot Service is a partnership between Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Child Care Trust  which supports separated children arriving in Scotland, helping them to navigate and feel empowered through the immigration and welfare processes they face, access the help they need when they need it; and help them to make informed decisions about the future. For more visit:
  • The Guardianship Learning Event, is a day-long conference at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, which aims to share learning from the first 18 months operation of the services. It will also highlight the work of agencies working with separated children in Scotland and the UK, and exchange views and ideas on issues currently Fundaffecting separated children.
  • An estimated four separated children or young people arrive in Scotland each month from countries outside of Europe, including Afghanistan, Nigeria and Gambia. They are often fleeing persecution or violence, and one or both of their parents may be dead. Others have fallen victim to child traffickers. 
  • The Scottish Guardianship Pilot Service works with separated children under 18 years of age who have presented to authorities after September 1, 2010. They will be seeking asylum or have been trafficked from outside of the EU, or they are currently being treated as a child under 18 but are age disputed and are undergoing an age assessment.
  • The service Project Advisory Group includes stakeholders from the UK Border Agency, Glasgow City Council, COSLA and the Migrant Child Law Centre amongst other.
  • The first independent evaluation of the Scottish Guardianship Service will be launched at the event. It has been written by Professor Heaven Crawley of Swansea, and Professor of Child Welfare Ravi Kohli of Bedfordshire University. The service was evaluated on its two main outcomes:

-       Outcome 1: to ensure that each unaccompanied minor has a significantly improved experience of the immigration and welfare processes, evidenced by the child’s informed participation and their receiving services and responses appropriate to their needs and entitlements

-       Outcome 2 – to develop a child-centred model of practice that promotes inter-agency working and provides better information upon which to base immigration decisions.

This evaluation was funded by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.