Guardianship Scotland: National Child Trafficking Support Service

What is Guardianship Scotland?

Guardianship Scotland: National Child Trafficking Support ServiceGuardianship Scotland is a specialist statutory service which provides Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ITCG) to all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and survivors of child-trafficking who arrive in Scotland without their families.

The service is delivered in partnership by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Children's Charity on behalf of the Scottish Government. It replaced the Scottish Guardianship Service on 1 April 2023.

Did you know?

Under s11 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, all unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children in Scotland are entitled to be referred to Guardianship Scotland. Scottish Local Authorities have a duty to refer children and young people as soon as reasonably practicable to the service.

Eligibility criteria 

We will accept referrals for any child or young person who is:

  • Under 18 years of age and
  • Separated from both parents and not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so and
  • In the care of a Scottish Local Authority

Young people remain eligible for support from Guardianship Scotland until three months after they have, either been granted leave to remain, or have received a conclusive grounds trafficking decision and are over 18.

How we help

Our Guardians support children and young people settle into a new life in Scotland. They help young people cope with being apart from their families in a strange new country. This support can include:

  • Navigating the complex trafficking, asylum, welfare, criminal justice and age assessment processes
  • Ensuring decisions are taken in the best interests of the child
  • Building trusting relationships with young people and supporting them to make informed decisions about their future.
  • Working collaboratively with other professionals to safeguard children
  • Upholding children's rights by listening to them and acting as advocates on their behalf
  • Providing practical and emotional support

Any Local Authority or agency in Scotland can make a referral to Guardianship Scotland.

To refer a young person, fill out a Guardianship Scotland Referral Form, or contact us on 0141 445 8659 or email

Please note: We cannot accept referrals from age-disputed young people until they are in the Local Authority's care. However, we can provide advice and information to supporting agencies.

Q&A with Catriona

Head of Guardianship Scotland, Catriona MacSween, explains what our guardians do and how they're helping young people rebuild their lives.

Alongside the core Guardianship Scotland service, we also offer the following:


We help empower young people and give them a voice. Our service provides a safe space where they can learn new skills, play sport, access education, volunteering and employment opportunities and talk about the issues that matter to them. We create opportunities for young people to meet politicians and other decision makers to speak out about their experiences and the issues they face.

We also work in partnership with Standing Tall Scotland to organise arts, cultural and social activities for unaccompanied children and young people. Our programme includes regular arts and creative workshops, sports and outdoor adventures. We provide accessible and exciting activities for and with young people, giving them an opportunity to have fun, make friends and try new things.


We match young people seeking refugee protection with trained volunteer befrienders who provide social and community support. Our volunteers work 1:1 with the young people to help them navigate their local area and connect to the community.

Moving to an unfamiliar country and community is hard for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for young people with no friends or family to turn to. Challenges for young refugees and trafficking survivors include language and cultural barriers, poor mental health and the impact of trauma and anxiety. Volunteer befrienders can play a significant role in helping young people adjust to life in their new home.

Wellbeing Project

Most young people we work are living with trauma. Many have experienced war, persecution, exploitation, violence, torture, abuse or displacement. Often, they are grieving the loss of their home country and the friends, family and pets they left behind.

The Wellbeing Project, run in partnership with the NHS Glasgow Psychological Trauma Service (the Anchor), is a safe space for young people to acknowledge their feelings. It provides therapeutic and psychoeducational groups, activities and workshops, including Allies (a 10-week group programme), sleep groups, art groups, relationship and sexual health groups, and 1:1 support.

Contact us by phone on 0141 445 8659 or email

Giving children a voice

Participation Officer, Stefan, shares his thoughts on helping young people to make friends, have fun and get involved in their new communities.