Our guardianship service for unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children will help more of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people, thanks to Scottish Government funding.

In partnership with Aberlour Children’s Charity, we have secured a multi-million-pound contract to deliver Guardianship Scotland, the country’s national child trafficking support service. Our service provides young people, who arrive in Scotland without parents or families, with an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian.

Independent Child Trafficking Guardians

A guardian is a trusted adult who can speak up on the child’s behalf and support them through the complex and confusing welfare, asylum and legal systems. Our guardians help young people understand what is happening to them and support them to be actively involved in decisions that affect their lives.

Guardianship Scotland replaces the Scottish Guardianship Service, which was established by Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour in 2010.

Head of Guardianship Scotland, Catriona MacSween said: “It is wonderful that we can continue to deliver this excellent service. It is testament to the commitment and fantastic work of our guardians who work closely with Local Authorities and many other organisations to support unaccompanied children and young people.

“Asylum-seeking children and victims of trafficking arrive in Scotland alone, confused and scared, having been through unimaginable trauma. We are so pleased that our work has been recognised and we can continue to help them.

Protecting and supporting children

Under Section 11 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, all unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children in Scotland are entitled to be referred to Guardianship Scotland.

Local authorities and public bodies in Scotland now have a legal duty to refer children and young people to our service so they can be assigned a guardian. On 2 June, The UN Committee on The Rights of the Child strongly recommended that England and Wales follow Scotland’s example and introduce a statutory guardianship service to ensure that all unaccompanied children in the UK have access to a guardian. 

Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, Sabir Zazai OBE said: “We’re delighted to be delivering Guardianship Scotland in partnership with Aberlour and look forward to continuing our work together to develop this essential service.

“The young people we work with have been through things no child should have to endure. Many have survived human trafficking or fled countries torn apart by war, arriving in Scotland traumatised and alone with no friends or family to take care of them.  

“We know that with the right support, children can recover from their experiences and go on to thrive. We are committed to ensuring that every unaccompanied child in Scotland gets a dedicated guardian to support them, speak up for them and be by their side as they rebuild their lives.”

Scottish Minister for Children and Young, Natalie Don, talks to young people supported by Guardianship Scotland about their experiencesScottish Government Minister for Children and Young People, Natalie Don, visited Guardianship Scotland on 7 June to officially launch the service. She meet with guardians and heard from young people we support about some of the issues they face

She said: “It is a privilege to help launch this new guardianship service, which is another example of how Scotland is offering a welcoming environment to people arriving in our country.

“Arriving alone can have a devastating and lasting impact on the lives of children and young people – so it is vitally important for them to be given access to the care and support they need to help them adjust to their new life here.

“I look forward to working with the Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour to ensure that we are getting it right for all of the young people in need of our support.”

Growing demand

Guardianship Scotland is currently supporting 730 children and demand for the service has grown rapidly in recent years. In 2021, 152 children were referred to the service. In 2022, that number rose to 343, an increase of more than 120%. Since January of this year, more than 140 children have been referred to our guardianship service.

Chief Executive of Aberlour Children’s Charity, SallyAnn Kelly OBE said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded the contract to run Guardianship Scotland. We have worked alongside the Scottish Government, Home Office, and Local Authorities over the past 12 years to ensure every unaccompanied asylum-seeking or trafficked child arriving in Scotland has the support of a guardian.

“Recently, we have seen a significant rise in the numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and there is an even greater need for the service. We are delighted to build on this successful partnership with Scottish Refugee Council and provide support to more unaccompanied children.”

In addition to the core statutory service, Guardianship Scotland offers:

  • Ukraine Children and Host Family Service
  • Wellbeing Project – providing holistic mental health support
  • Befriending Service – supporting social and community integration
  • Participation programme – supporting young people to be heard, gain skills and have fun
Find out more about Guardianship Scotland
Read our interview with Catriona MacSween, Head of Guardianship Scotland to find out more about the difference having a trusted, independent guardian makes to children’s lives.

Photos by Paul Chappells


Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb