We are working alongside local authorities and other partners to help displaced people from Ukraine integrate into communities, supporting them to settle here. Local authority caseworkers are in place to enable access to services, including healthcare, education, and employment and social security advice.
Our new Scots strategy provides a clear framework for integration and assists partners to make the best use of resources and expertise by promoting partnership approaches, joined-up working and early intervention. We have also provided £1.4 million to the Scottish Refugee Council for the expansion of its refugee integration service, as well as funding JustRight Scotland to provide free and confidential legal advice to Ukrainians seeking safety in Scotland.
Government guidance states that children who are unaccompanied, or who are accompanied by adults who are not their legal guardians, are the most vulnerable group of refugees arriving in Scotland. Will the Government develop plans to ensure that proactive efforts are made to reunite unaccompanied children with their parents, should such situations arise in Scotland? Will it also ensure that those who work with Ukrainian refugees, such as local council caseworkers, are trained to deal with the safeguarding concerns that are specific to unaccompanied children who do not speak English?
I thank Bill Kidd for raising a very important issue, and one that is a key concern for this Government. Sadly, the United Kingdom is in the unenviable position of being the only major European country without a legal route for unaccompanied children who do not have a prior familial connection. That position is untenable and exposes vulnerable children to preventable harm. I have raised the issue with UK ministers and have called for an urgent four nations meeting to agree what more can be done to provide sanctuary for those children.
Scotland’s priority will be to ensure that children who arrive are safe and cared for.
The arrangements are considered to be temporary and are in place only until the children can return home safely, in accordance with international convention. We will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities, operational partners and the third sector to support reunions for displaced, unaccompanied Ukrainian children.