Recent media and political coverage of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Calais, and other children on the move across Europe, has highlighted the potential vulnerability of separated children. The experience of local authorities in Scotland of working with separated children is developing, and they are building on many years of experience of working with vulnerable children. This knowledge and experience is invaluable; however, we cannot assume that it can be uncritically applied to care for children who may have additional and/or different needs due to their ‘unaccompanied’ status. Despite improving practice in Scotland there has been little opportunity for reflection in the development of responses regarding the needs and experiences of separated children who arrive in the country. Aspirations to prioritise a human rights model to work with separated children within a wider discourse of ‘vulnerable people’ on the move has frequently been overtaken by law enforcement, border control priorities and media hyperbole.
This proposed programme would provide a unique opportunity to develop interdisciplinary, international cooperation and to work in collaboration with local authorities to further develop best practice in relation to support for unaccompanied young people. Bringing together experts from academia, policy, and practice a clear theoretical and conceptual understanding of the issues will be considered, followed by examination of appropriate responses and support programmes from Scotland and abroad. As such, the programme is expected to have high societal impact by contributing to the understanding of policy and current debates, with the aim to increase the knowledge base and ultimately shape the development of local practice, service provision and policy to improve support and longer term outcomes for children and young people.