UNISON and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) have launched a guidance booklet for social workers in Scotland. It advises on ethical practice for social work staff dealing with asylum-seeker children. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/siu/oct06/22.html
A commitment was made by the UK Immigration Minister back in March to ensure that asylum-seekers' children would be assessed and each would have a lead professional appointed. In addition immigration staff dealing with children would have to have enhanced disclosure checks. These commitments have not yet been implemented, but UNISON is exerting more pressure following a spate of recent 'dawn raids' by immigration officials outwith the agreed protocol.
Reports say one raid resulted in young children being separated from their parents and driven off by people who were strangers to them.
Co-authors of the booklet, Kate Ramsden and John Stevenson of UNISON, formally launched the advice with with Ronnie Barnes of BASW at an SSSC conference in Edinburgh on 19 October.
Kate said, "We are concerned that immigration law compromises children's rights under Scottish law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. "We hope this guide will support our members in ensuring wherever they can, that the welfare of the child is paramount.
"This is a guide for ethical practice and we will not be part of giving a humane face to inhumane practices like 'dawn raids'."
Co-author of the booklet, Ruth Stark of BASW said, "Social Work is a discipline which is underpinned by principles and ethics. A key part of that is to advocate for people's rights within the UN Conventions."
After the recent 'dawn raids', UNISON's Scottish Secretary Matt Smith wrote to First Minister Jack McConnell calling on him to act urgently.
The letter said: "These actions fly in the face of the very protections that Scottish child care legislation, guidance and policy seek to ensure."
"We entered constructively into talks with the Scottish Executive and backed an agreement that meant asylum seeker children would be assessed, would have a lead professional and their services would be inspected. The Home Office was meant to consult to ensure children's needs were recognised. This is just not happening and we need to know why", said Matt
"As a nation we should be proud of these laws which put children first. How can we reconcile that with 'dawn raids' that treat innocent children like criminals?", he added.
The booklet will be circulated to branches and is at www.unison-scotland.org.uk/localgovt/ socialwork/asylumbooklet.