Serco evictions condemned: Herald letter from UNISON, SASW and academics

thumbnail of refugee and asylum seeker good practice guide (webversion) final

We note with serious concern Serco’s stated intent to evict up to 300 people who have been told they cannot stay in Britain. We wish to collectively state our concern at the humanitarian impact of creating more homeless people because of a brutal and hostile UK Government policy and call on all MPs to urgently raise this matter with the Home Office.

Not to protest at such actions is to be complicit in them. We also appeal to the Scottish Government to voice its opposition in the strongest way possible and to bring together councils, professionals, the voluntary sector with asylum seekers and refugees to develop a viable alternative which reflects that refugees are indeed welcome in Scotland.

Immigration law is complex, and not devolved to Scotland, however our social work legislation is quite clear about our obligations to children and families in need, regardless of their immigration status, and whether they have “no recourse to public funds”. Accommodation and financial support under the Children Act (Scotland) is not a public fund.

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 empowers local authorities to provide services, not just to the child, but to their family if in alignment with promoting their safety, wellbeing and rights to a family life. The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 can similarly be used to provide support for vulnerable adults, if necessary to prevent a breach of human rights.

We appreciate fully that council officials and our colleagues who work in Glasgow will be facing a potentially untenable and unworkable situation. However, it is unacceptable that professionals may not be able to respond according to their code of ethics and practice. Under the SSSC Code of Practice social workers are required to support their service users fully and failing to do so could lead to their registration being challenged. Their employers therefore need to ensure that they are supported and able to fulfil these responsibilities.

Working with a range of voluntary sector organisations SASW and Unison Scotland last year published detailed practice guidance to social workers who are committed to offer a service to people who present as having “no recourse to public funds”.

The Scottish Government last year published recommendations in the Hidden Lives – New Beginnings: Destitution, Asylum and Insecure Immigration Status in Scotland report. The ‘safety net’ of social services was heavily raised in there, and still lots of action needed. This week’s suggested shameful actions may be a good place to start.

Tim Parkinson, Scottish Association of Social Workers (part of BASW UK); Trisha Hall, SASW; Stephen Smellie, UNISON Scotland; Natalia Farmer, Glasgow Caledonian University; Scott Grant, Glasgow Caledonian University; Colin Turbett, UNISON Scotland and SASW member,
c/o 67 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh.

See the letter on the Herald website at