The award was given to Catriona MacSween 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 Northern Ireland, England and Wales.
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 project is funded by the Scottish Government.
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.
Catriona MacSween, Service Manager, Scottish Guardianship Service, said: “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.”
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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.
About ECPAT UK
ECPAT UK is a leading children’s rights organisation campaigning to protect children from child trafficking and transnational child sexual abuse. We support children everywhere to uphold their rights and to live a life free from abuse and exploitation. www.ecpat.org.uk.
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.