Safeguarding advice for congregations involved in supporting Ukrainian refugees

Ensuring good safeguarding arrangements are in place for refugees from Ukraine.

The invasion of Ukraine has resulted in millions fleeing their homes to escape the violence and seek refuge in another country. In response to this conflict, the UK Government has now set up the Home for Ukraine scheme, which will involve communities across the UK and Scotland providing housing and other support to those refugees.

Whilst there is no doubt about the goodwill and capability of most people who are volunteering to accommodate refugees in their homes, it is important to ensure that good safeguarding arrangements are in place for children and adults to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all.

The latest government guidance can be found at Homes for Ukraine scheme: frequently asked questions.

Volunteer Scotland has also published guidance about providing domestic support for refugees at Ready Scotland Guidance. This guidance advises on the safest way that people can contribute to providing support to Ukrainian refugees.

The Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection has information and resources around supporting child refugees and their families.

Please make use of the Church's Safeguarding Service publications for further advice about good safeguarding practices.

We will update this page at regular intervals as more information becomes available.

Homes for Ukraine: safeguarding considerations

Being a sponsor

Do you have sufficient space to provide accommodation? Sponsors must have an empty room that is not a shared space. The UK government guidance states that two people should not share one room unless they are:

  • Adult cohabitating partners (individuals who didn't previously know each other should not share a room)
  • A parent and child
  • Two siblings of the same gender aged over 10 years old
  • Two siblings regardless of gender aged under 10 years old

Please see Information on Standards of Accommodation and General Information.

If there is any concern about the wellbeing or protection of a child then the sponsors need to know exactly whom to contact in what circumstances and how.

Criminal record checks

The local authority will be responsible for facilitating the Enhanced Disclosure checks required for sponsors wishing to host Ukrainian refugees in their homes and for everyone in the household over 16 years old.

The Disclosure checks will be processed as a priority and they will be free of charge.

Further information can be found on the Scottish Government website:

Settling in

Once individuals and families have settled in to the area, they may wish to get involved with the local congregation. The Church of Scotland Safe Recruitment Practices should be followed. An individual will require to be recruited and complete a PVG application if they would like to undertake regulated work with children and/or protected adults in the Church of Scotland. A Basic Disclosure may be required for other roles that do not include regulated work. Overseas police checks are not required for asylum seekers and refugees. Please contact your local Safeguarding Co-ordinator.

The Scottish Refugee Council has some helpful tips on recruiting refugees.

Setting up groups

Please refer to the Safeguarding Service section of the website or contact the Safeguarding Service via telephone or email for advice on recruitment, PVG and Basic Disclosure checks, good safeguarding practice, etc. if your congregation is setting up a group for Ukrainian refugees.

A let agreement will be required if non-church groups wish to use the church hall. The let agreement is available in the Law Department circulars section of the website.

Refugees may experience trauma

Many different types of experience can lead to psychological trauma, including but not limited to accidents, interpersonal violence, surgery and serious physical illness, chronic or repetitive experiences such as child abuse and neglect, enduring deprivation, war or living in a war zone, and military combat.

Experiencing trauma can have a wide range of adverse outcomes, including poorer mental and/or physical health, economic and social outcomes, and religious/spiritual impacts which can be long term.

No two people experience harmful events in the same way. Some people are highly resilient and are able to "bounce back" without experiencing the same impact as their neighbour while other traumatised people may develop poor coping skills.

Being welcomed into the Church community and having their basic need for food, water, warmth, security, safety and belonging met is a good starting place to help mitigate the impact of trauma for refugees (or anyone else) experiencing trauma.

Being aware of the signs of trauma and knowing what support services are available can help you to support refugees experiencing trauma over the longer term, particularly if you are thinking about becoming a sponsor. NHS Education Scotland has provided some useful resources to help look after others safely and effectively and to take care of ourselves in that process. The Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection (CELCIS) offers a comprehensive list of resources to support child refugees and their families. Public Health Scotland also has useful resources for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Housing refugees in the Manse

The Manse is part of the Church building and normally has rooms that are intended to be used for Church meetings or for Pastoral purposes. If a Manse is housing a Ukrainian family of refugees and the intention is to use the Manse for meetings which include anyone who is subject of a Covenant of Responsibilities or who is believed poses a risk to others for whatever reason, then it would be prudent to host that meeting in a building where the Ukrainian family has no access.

Ministers are subject of the PVG Scheme as a consequence of their role. Not every member of the Kirk Session or volunteer in the Church is subject to PVG checks as they may not undertake Regulated Work. Please be mindful of this when managing Church members or volunteers who interact with Ukrainian Refugees. Also be mindful of the fact that these interactions may constitute Regulated Work and will necessitate that volunteer being safely recruited and joining the PVG Scheme. Refugee families who are vulnerable and who are, perhaps, frightened and disorientated as a result of having to flee to an alien country where they cannot speak the language may see Church members and volunteers as trusted individuals. This only underlines the need to ensure that volunteers are checked and safely recruited. It is an unfortunate fact that some individuals will try and use these circumstances for their own ends.

If there is an intention to house Refugees in an adapted part of the Church House or in a Church building that is multi-use then please be aware of other groups who may use that building. Any concerns about any individuals or members of the community should be shared with the Police. In Scotland there is a "Keeping Children Safe Scheme" or Sex Offender Community Disclosure Scheme which allows members of the public to contact the Police if they are think a sex offender is in contact with a child or children. This allows the Police to make enquiries and, if necessary, disclose information about that "sex offender" to the care giver of that child. If a Church member has a concern in this regard then please contact the Safeguarding Service for advice.

Please remember that in Safeguarding it is necessary sometimes to "think the unthinkable" and to at least share concerns with others.

Human Trafficking

Many charities (including Trafficking Raising Awareness Alliance (TARA), Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland and Scotland against Modern Slavery) have raised concerns that as much as people need shelter and safety, and the kindness of people opening their homes under the UK refugee scheme is heartening, it could also provide an opportunity for abusers.

It is important that we are aware of these risks, mitigate against them and ensure we can spot the signs for issues such as Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery and Child Sexual Exploitation.

More information can be found below:

You can also refer to the Church of Scotland Safeguarding Publications, National Guidance on Child Protection and Adult Protection Guidance for Scotland