Children and young people can be trafficked for various reasons, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, criminal activities, benefit fraud, organ harvesting or illegal adoption.
These children and young people trafficked into the UK, or exploited after their arrival, often struggle to get the help they need to escape the exploitative situation and move on with their lives.
Still at Risk: A review of support for trafficked children
Still at Risk: A review of support for trafficked children (summary, full report), a new joint report by us and the Refugee Council, finds that too many trafficked children are not receiving sufficient protection from the agencies that are supposed to be supporting them.
The report draws on interviews with young people who were trafficked to the UK as children and had escaped, a range of professionals who work with them, and local authorities across England.
The study, commissioned by the Home Office, had the following goals:
- explore the experiences of children who had been trafficked and were being cared for and supported by a local authority
- look at agency responses to child trafficking in the context of best practice guidance in child protection and safeguarding
- assess the multi-agency responses to supporting trafficked children
- identify good practice and areas for improvement or change
The report reveals that, while some improvements have been made with helping trafficked children, too many opportunities to protect them are being missed because of a culture of doubt and suspicion among professionals.
This culture of doubt has led some trafficked children to be punished rather than protected, causing some to be sent to adult prison or detention centres because of doubts over their real ages. Others have been placed in inappropriate housing such as hostels leaving them vulnerable to being re-trafficked and forced into further abuse.
Read Still at Risk
Our briefing from June 2012 sets outs what we think are the main issues affecting children who have been victims of trafficking and exploitation and recommendations for how these should be addressed. The paper outlines the available data and summarises the most important policies and legislation relating to this. It then goes on to explore key concerns identified through our practice base such as:
- the prioritisation of immigration control over child protection concerns
- the criminalisation of trafficked children
- hidden children and private fostering
- the lack of independent advocates or guardians
- high numbers of trafficked children that go missing from care
- the links between sexual exploitation and ‘internal trafficking’
A summary of the briefing is available here.
Our research report Hidden children challenges the stereotype that portrays child victims of trafficking as being entirely hidden away from society. In reality, many actually attend school, church or GP clinics, but feel too afraid to admit the abuse. As a result the indications that they are being exploited are not picked up or acted upon by professionals.
Hidden children provides a wake-up call to teachers, social workers, third sector organisations and the police. The report stresses that it is vital for the authorities to co-operate to help trafficked children get access to their rights and entitlements, and certainty about their immigration status, if they are to move forward after escaping the exploitative situation.
The report also recommends:
- once the young person has been discovered and settled in a stable placement, with a specialised, experienced foster carer, they should receive an explanation of their options for the future, including about their immigration status
- hidden children should be made aware of future risks of exploitation, as well as being made aware of their rights and entitlements
- hidden children should be offered therapeutic as well as peer group support.
- Hidden children - full report
- Hidden children - executive summary
- Hidden children - young people's version