ECPAT UK has today announced the Scottish Guardianship Service as the recipient of the 2016 Children’s Champion award.

The award is made in recognition of the Scottish Guardianship Service’s child-centred model of practice with unaccompanied, separated and trafficked children in Scotland.

The support the service provides to young vulnerable asylum-seeking children, some of whom are trafficked and exploited in Scotland, is unrivalled in the United Kingdom, serving as a template to help campaigners secure broadly commensurate systems in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England and Wales.

ECPAT UK has campaigned for more than 10 years for a UK system of independent guardianship modelled on many of the practices the Scottish Guardianship Service promotes. This includes: helping unaccompanied children understand and navigate complex asylum, immigration and welfare processes; assisting them to access help when they need it; ensuring that their voices are heard and helping them to make informed decisions about their future.

The Scottish Guardianship Service, a partnership between Aberlour Childcare Trust and Scottish Refugee Council, was set up to provide a guardian for young separated children: someone to be by their side and on their side. With the passing of the Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, guardianship in Scotland is now a statutory requirement and children who are trafficked will continue to have their voices heard, be protected and have their rights secured.

“The Scottish Guardianship Service has strived to ensure trafficked and asylum-seeking young people are at the heart of decisions affecting them. The service has grown and evolved over the past 6 years, shaped by young people and many partner agencies. ECPAT played an important role in the development of our model and continues to provide support and guidance with their expertise of child trafficking. This award can help shine a light on the need for young trafficked people across the UK to be equally treated and supported.”

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK, said: “We thank the Scottish Guardianship Service for their outstanding commitment to children – we can think of few other organisations more deserving of this award. They have pioneered new systems of support for some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland, including child victims of trafficking. Organisations and governments across the UK should look to them as the standard bearers for independent guardianship.”

The award was presented by ECPAT UK’s Head of Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns, Chloe Setter, to Catriona MacSween as part of a 50-delegate strong conference launching research for the ReACT project, a partnership initiative between ECPAT groups in the UK, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany aiming to increase the capacity of representatives (guardians and lawyers) of child victims of trafficking to provide appropriate support and uphold the rights of trafficked children during legal proceedings in key trafficking destination countries.

About the ECPAT UK Children's Champion Award 

The ECPAT UK Children’s Champion Award is an annual award presented to one individual who has shown outstanding commitment to children. Past winners include:

  • The Lord McColl of Dulwich CBE, for his compassioned and dedicated fight for a system of independent guardianship for trafficked children over many years
  • Kalvir Kaur, a leading children’s solicitor and former Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year, who has specialised in cases of trafficked children
  • Nadine Finch, barrister and leading children’s rights advocate, who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to children’s rights
  • The Row for Freedom team of five young women, who gained two world records by rowing unaided across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness of child trafficking

About the Scottish Guardianship Service

The Scottish Guardianship Service works with children and young people who arrive in Scotland unaccompanied and separated from their families. The service supports unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children and young people.

Guardians support the young people by helping them navigate the immigration and welfare processes, and feel supported and empowered throughout the asylum process, assisting them to access the help they need when they need it, and make informed decisions about their future.

Aberlour and the Scottish Refugee Council are the principal partners in the guardianship pilot, which is an innovative service for children and young people and serves as a ground breaking piece of action research with the potential for wider application.