18 Feb 2015

Commenting on the Government’s proposed changes to the Modern Slavery Bill1, Peter Grigg, Director of Campaigns and Policy, says:

'We applaud the Government for listening to our calls to change the law around trafficked children. At last, it is now moving from papering over the cracks towards real action to make sure these vulnerable children are protected from being forced back into horrific abuse, including domestic work and sexual exploitation.

'For too long, trafficked children have had no one to fight their corner, leaving them facing destitution and homelessness. The Government’s pilot scheme in which trafficked children are given an advocate who acts as a champion for them and helps them access the support they need, was a step in the right direction. But the reality is that without legal powers these advocates cannot effectively protect these children.

'Now, following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland which passed a new law last month,2 the Government has agreed to give advocates greater clout with councils,  be able to hold authorities to account and instruct solicitors on behalf of the child. Should these changes be implemented, these advocates will be able to intervene and help trafficked children at the times when they most need it. This is a vital step to stop vulnerable children falling through the gaps. We will be pressing the Government to make these proposals a reality.'

We are urging the Government to ensure these changes take place following a review on the effectiveness of the advocacy pilots.

-Ends-

For further information, please contact:
Catherine Jones, Senior Media Officer, The Children’s Society
0207 841 4420
Catherine.Jones@childrenssociety.org.uk

References

1. On 17 February 2015 the Government has announced amendments to its Modern Slavery Bill, which protects trafficked children. Specifically, advocates who represent trafficked children, must promote the child’s well-being and act in the child’s best interests. They must assist the child to obtain legal or other advice, assistance and representation, including (where necessary) by appointing and instructing legal representatives to act on the child’s behalf. Councils must recognise, and pay due regard, to the advocate’s functions and provide him or her with access to information relating to the the child so they can carry out those functions effectively
2.  Section 21, Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Criminal Justice & Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nia/2015/2/contents/enacted
3. The Children’s Society is part of Refugee Children’s Consortium (RCC), a coalition of 50 NGOs working collaboratively to ensure that the rights and needs of refugee children are promoted, respected and met in accordance with the relevant domestic, regional and international standards.