The London Safeguarding Children Board has launched a new set of guidance and tools to help social workers, teachers, police, health workers and other agencies identify and support children who have been trafficked. These children can be subjected to sexual exploitation, enforced labour or drug dealing, sold or forced to commit crime by the organised gangs or individuals who have brought them into the country or trafficked them between cities within the UK.
The new guidance is based on a pilot scheme was carried out involving 12 local authorities, seven of which were in London. The trial was monitored by the London Safeguarding Children Board and a range of partner organisations, including representatives from the Home Office, CEOP, the UK Border Agency and UK Human Trafficking Centre, the Crown Prosecution Service and ECPAT UK. A total of 56 children were identified during the 14-month pilot, 47 of whom were referred to the National Referral Mechanism, an official system set up following the UK Government’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The main findings from the pilot are:
- Once a child is identified as being a victim of trafficking, immediate action must be taken before they go missing.
- Awareness needs to be raised among the public and professionals who can sometimes underestimate the scale of the issue.
- Multiple interviews with various agencies can be traumatic for young victims of trafficking – a single multi-agency assessment is preferred.
- Teams of agencies need to work more closely together and be more proactive in sharing information quickly with organisations in neighbouring areas as well as the voluntary sector.
Chair of the London Safeguarding Children Board, Cheryl Coppell said: “Trafficked children are at increased risk of significant harm because they are largely invisible to the professionals and volunteers who would be in a position to assist them. The adults who traffic them take trouble to ensure that the children do not come to the attention of the authorities, or disappear from contact with statutory services soon after arrival in the UK, or in a new area within the UK….. There are very specific challenges surrounding trafficked children and there could be as little as a golden hour to take action to help them before they go missing.
Chief executive of the CEOP, Peter Davies said: “Child trafficking is a form of child abuse. CEOP identified 287 children from 47 countries trafficked into the UK in 2009-2010. These children were subject to sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, exploitation in cannabis farms and compelled to perpetrate street crime.