New Programme – Separated and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children in Scotland

In the second of our introductions to the new programmes, Dr Paul Rigby and Dr Daniela Sime tell us a little more about ‘Separated and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children in Scotland’.

Dr Paul Rigby is a Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Stirling. He is presently managing a number of research projects looking at issues around children and migration, including an Erasmus+ project with partner institutions across Europe looking at the training of social workers.

Dr Daniela Sime is a Reader in Education & Social Justice in the School of Social Work & Social Policy, University of Strathclyde. She is currently leading an ESRC-funded research project on the lives of migrant young people from Central and Eastern Europe (


What made you interested in the subject of this project?

We both have worked for a number of years on different aspects of migration in Scotland. Given the recent changes in migration trends and the number of children who travel alone across Europe in search of safer places, we thought it would be interesting and important to discuss the issue. Our aim was to identify with partner agencies some of the challenges in working with children on the move and to draw on best practice from the UK and internationally.


Why do you think this is an important issue to consider/interrogate/explore?

There has been increased migration across the Mediterranean over the last few years and the UK Government has decided to permit entry to separated children from camps in Europe to the UK. There is also a transfer scheme for those unaccompanied children already living in the UK and accommodated by various local authorities. These events made us think there were varying levels of experience across Scotland in working with unaccompanied children in a context in which most local authorities in Scotland will be likely to receive unaccompanied children.


What made you decide to submit a proposal to the Scottish Universities Insight Institute? OR How did you hear about the Scottish Universities Insight Institute?

We both worked with SUII previously either through events we organised or seminars we attended and we considered SUII provides the support and space for discussion and an ideal platform to address some of the issues identified.


Who else is working with you on this, and how did the programme team come together?

The programme team is a combination of existing and new partnerships from Scotland, UK and international. Drawing on some of our existing contacts, the programme team was identified for its expertise in different areas of work with unaccompanied children, encompassing experience of policy, practice and research.


How have you structured the programme (workshops/symposia/talks/etc)?

The programme is structured around three symposia of two days each, the first day of each focusing on small, expert workshops and discussions and the second day of each involving representatives from each of the Scottish local authority areas. We think this structure allows for in depth discussion and knowledge dissemination.


What kind of participants are you hoping to involve?

For the expert groups, invited participants include unaccompanied children and young people, care providers, international agencies, government and academia. Local authority representatives invited are from social work, the lead agency with responsibility for separated children.


Is there any element of this project that you wouldn’t have been possible otherwise?

Bringing together a wide range of expert participants from across the area of interest and permitting a safe space for discussion is difficult in this context, because of the highly charged political and media interest in migration. The international dimension of the programme is also a major strength and will allow us to bring to Scotland some of the leading experts in the academic field and practice, likely to benefit provision of support for unaccompanied children in Scotland.


What difference do you hope to make with this project?

Scotland, with the exception of some of the larger urban areas, has little experience of working with separated and unaccompanied children. Drawing on international expertise, and those countries who have worked with thousands of children, services in Scotland will hopefully be in a better position to identify and meet the needs of a vulnerable group of children, and ultimately improve the longer term outcomes for this group of young people.


Further information on this programme, including upcoming events, can be found here.

Author: scotinsight

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute supports programmes of knowledge exchange which address and provide insight on substantial issues that face Scotland and the wider world. Our programmes break down disciplinary and organisational barriers in bringing together academics from different backgrounds, policymakers and practitioners to mobilise existing knowledge in fresh ways through sustained and collaborative focus on a shared issue. Our member universities are: Aberdeen, Dundee, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde, and Glasgow School of Art.

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