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SASW seeks clarity from Scottish Government on Ukraine response

SASW has written to the Minister with Special Responsibility for Refugees from Ukraine, the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care and the Minister for Children and Young People to seek clarification on safeguarding arrangements being put in place for when Ukrainian guests arrive in Scotland and to highlight the need for specific support and resources to be made available for social workers to help the profession to effectively respond to this challenge. 


RE: Scottish Government Response to Ukrainian Crisis

Dear Mr Gray,

SASW is committed to supporting all efforts to welcome people displaced by war and other catastrophes.  We will work with Government, health and social services and our members to get people the help they need for as long as they need it. 

The unfolding catastrophe in Ukraine is unprecedented. The challenges include immediate and urgent demands such as enabling people to travel as safely as possible to places of safety, short term measures such as temporary housing, access to social support, benefits and health care and whilst doing this, there must also be consideration of longer term needs for permanent housing, planning for future lives and the impact of trauma and the loss of the social fabric of families and communities.

We welcome the recently published guidance for local authorities on the Super Sponsor Scheme and Homes for Ukraine Scheme which explains the enhanced disclosure process that hosts need to complete before providing accommodation. This process, of course, will not eliminate all safeguarding risks, particularly when considering the trauma experienced by people arriving from Ukraine. We are heartened that trauma support is being made available at the welcome hubs.  This is a start, and access to this support should be available on an ongoing basis and through a variety of routes.  We note that a Psychological Advice Wellbeing pack is being prepared for host families and local organisations and would welcome more details on what this pack will entail.   Both hosts and guests will need access to appropriate services when required over time.

Whilst the guidance states that potential homes are being assessed, there is little detail on how the matching of people and accommodation is taking place.  Good quality matching will minimise the risk of breakdowns of relationships and housing situations. With little guidance and support provided for the people who open their homes, hosts may find having guests living with them who have suffered significant trauma and might not speak any language in common stressful in ways they could not anticipate. We would hope that appropriate support (including access to information in Ukrainian, Russian and easy read) will be available. 

Our members would appreciate greater clarification about the plans for how decisions will be made about which local authorities will look after unaccompanied children and, more importantly, how they will ensure that all children are sufficiently supported in culturally appropriate environments.

There are already major safeguarding concerns regarding trafficking of women and children as people make private arrangements through social media, without any assessment or vetting taking place.

We understand that the Scottish Government is seeking clarification from the Home Office as to whether the visa might be transferable should there be a breakdown in the match. This is imperative to ensure that guests are not dependent on their relationship with their host for their right to support and services.

Social workers will have a critical role in providing support to those who arrive from Ukraine.  As you will be aware, social workers are currently experiencing significantly high levels of demand. The existing pressures on services have been compounded by the pandemic and there is already concern amongst social workers that vulnerable adults and children are not getting access to the support they need due to a lack of capacity. The funding announced in the Scottish Budget for local authorities to increase social work capacity is reassuring and welcome but will not be enough given the likely increase in demand for the support and assessments that social workers are trained for. The willingness amongst social workers to be proactive in working to ameliorate this humanitarian catastrophe is undoubted, but we ask the Scottish Government to make sure that this is backed by sufficient resource and that consideration is given about how to support social workers so that they can respond to these challenges effectively.

SASW would welcome assurances from the Scottish Government on the importance of supporting social workers at this time.  Sustaining a healthy workforce and developing new workers cannot be done instantly but must be part of a long term committed strategy.  We recognise that developing appropriate and coherent responses takes time, but we are increasingly concerned that we need to go further and faster in scaling up effective responses to meet this huge need.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely


Alison Bavidge

National Director

Scottish Association of Social Work

CC: Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care

CC: Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People