UNISONScotland www
This is our archive website that is no longer being updated.
For the new website please go to
Click here
Home News About us Join Us Contacts Help Resources Learning Links UNISON UK
Scotland in UNISON


Local Government Service Group Conference 15-16 June 2008

Asylum seeker children: All children's rights paramount

John Stevenson
John Stevenson
Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

UNISON's local government conference built on a motion from Scotland last year, and agreed overwhelmingly to keep up the campaign for children to be seen as children first with their immigration status second.

The law intended all children's interests to be 'paramount'. UNISON will continue to campaign for that, it will support members trying to work within that principle and will continue to challenge policy and practice which does not comply.

It will press for properly funded services for asylum seeker children who are unaccompanied and will support campaigns against their enforced removal.

"We've waged a long campaign to ensure that our members working with asylum seeker children, unaccompanied children and trafficked children are supported in delivering the principle that the child's welfare is paramount," John Stevenson, City of Edinburgh told delegates.

"That is what the law says, that is what the law intended", he said, praising the motion from Solihull for putting the issue on the agenda.

"Last year conference decided that a guide for members along the lines of the Scottish guide should be produced for England and Wales. After a year of meetings, writing, research and wrangling we still do not have a final agreement with our partner in this, the British Association of Social Workers. However we hope that it will be published soon," he said.

He told conference of UNISON's role in a campaign to press the UK government to lift the reservation on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and made a plea for the involvement of lay activists in England and Wales to bring their experience to these initiatives.

Supporting the motion, Kate Ramsden, Aberdeenshire Branch spoke of her concerns about the Home Office guidance on unaccompanied asylum seeker children. "Although it purports to have a child welfare focus, it is not based on the principle that care planning for these children should be based on an assessment of their needs as with any other child. Rather it creates a significant move away from this by requiring social work and other staff to take account of immigration processes in the care planning for these children. This discriminates against these young people who are amongst our most vulnerable."

Kate praised UNISON's stance on asylum issues, especially our clear position that the child's welfare is paramount, regardless of immigration status.

"We need to ensure that our members who work with these vulnerable children are properly supported to make sure that our progressive domestic laws, whether in Scotland or across the UK, apply equally to these children and that this informs our practice.

"Let's challenge an immigration system that would further undermine their rights."