31 May 2023

Specialist Aberdeenshire Council team supporting Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children

Members of the Education and Children’s Services Committee have heard of the work in the shire with Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC).

UASC are children and young people seeking asylum in the UK but who have been separated from their parents or carers.

Whilst their claim is being assessed by the Home Office, the children are cared for by local authorities across the UK via the National Transfer Scheme.

It became mandatory in late 2021 that all local authorities were expected to offer placements up to 0.1% of their child population. Their placements are funded by the Home Office.

For Aberdeenshire, this represents the potential for caring for approximately 54 children.

The UASC team spend significant time building trusting relationships with the young people, ensuring they feel safe and welcomed, helping them adapt to their new home and town. 

This includes taking them shopping, helping them develop cooking skills, registering with a GP, dentist and familiarising them with the local area, transport links, churches/places of worship, leisure facilities, as well as supporting their education and learning English.

Aberdeenshire Council currently cares for 32 UASC children between the ages of 16 – 19 who are placed in suitable accommodation while their asylum application is progressing.

The majority are from Afghanistan, alongside young people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Depending on the age of the young people on arrival, accommodation and support varies from foster care for under 16’s, to host family support and local authority housing accommodation for over 16’s.

Currently most UASC are living in local authority homes across Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff and Macduff. 

Two young people are in supported accommodation, one is living with a host family, and one is in foster care.

Chair of the Education and Children’s Services Committee Cllr Gillian Owen said: “This was an excellent report and it’s encouraging to read that our team is ensuring the emotional, cultural, health, social and educational needs of these young people is being met to help them thrive.

“Caring for these young people is not as simple as providing them a safe place to stay - our team works hard to ensure that they can establish cultural connections to avoid isolation, make meaningful links to religious institutions, have access to English language support and education, and support to address their mental wellbeing and trauma they have experienced.

“Feedback from the UASC team and wider partners has shown that the lives of those getting to know these young people in our care has been greatly enriched by the experience. 

“The report highlights the strength and determination of these young people – fleeing conflict from their own county, many with substantial trauma, compounded by their journey to the UK, losing connections with their family and being exposed to exploitation and risk – and that is humbling and inspiring to see.”

Aberdeenshire Council continues to strengthen education links and support to access college courses as well as talking with the young people to obtain their views and experiences of transfer to Aberdeenshire.

The UASC team is planning a ‘Living in the UK’ course to support the young people’s understanding of UK laws, values and norms and will build on existing community ‘social groups’ to support better connections between the young people.