5 Apr 2019

The Children’s Society, Every Child Protected against Trafficking (ECPAT UK) and 43 other organisations have written a letter to Sajid Javid urging him to do more to help all separated and trafficked children.

Signatories include UNICEF UK, NSPCC, the Refugee Council, Action for Children and the International Organization for Migration. The organisations have joined forces to call on the Home Secretary to introduce independent legal guardians to support all separated children for example those fleeing war and not just those suspected as victims of modern slavery. It follows the publication of the third interim report on child trafficking advocates as part of the review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.[1]

The review is considering what support is available to young victims of modern slavery, among other provisions. While the group welcomes many of the recommendations, they contend that the report has missed an opportunity to protect some of the most vulnerable children in our society - those who find themselves in the UK on their own, separated from their families and with no one acting in their best interests.

Many of the organisations who signed the letter have campaigned for the introduction of independent legal guardians and more than 27,000 public supporters recently backed ECPAT UK’s online campaign.[2]

Similar schemes already exist in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where guardianship is available to all unaccompanied children. The respective schemes are provided through each country’s modern slavery legislation, in recognition of its role in identifying and preventing child trafficking. The ongoing review of the Modern Slavery Act provides a crucial opportunity to make sure this form of vital protection is available for separated children in England and Wales too.

Nick Roseveare MBE, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society said: “We know a significant number of separated children report exploitation on their journeys[3] and face increased risks of exploitation, abuse, mental health crisis, suicide and other safeguarding concerns. They are also left with no one to help them navigate complex immigration and asylum processes, ensuring they get into school quickly, or can access support they so often desperately need. Many of them have had to flee their home country due to violence and war, they will have experienced things no child should ever have to. When they arrive in England and Wales, they have no one to act in their best interests and are left to make life-changing, difficult decisions by themselves.

“As a group we want better outcomes for all separated children including those who have been trafficked. We are confident guardians would provide the help they need, just as they do in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Collectively, we are urging the Home Secretary to consider introducing this vital protection for children in England and Wales and demonstrate that the Government really does take children’s welfare seriously.”

Every Child Protected against Trafficking (ECPAT UK) is co-leading this action. ECPAT UK’s chief executive, Katherine Mulhern, said:

“While there are positive recommendations emerging from this review, it is extremely disappointing that this issue has been so narrowly viewed.

“Those who work directly with unaccompanied, separated and trafficked children know that guardianship leads to improved identification of victims of trafficking, and the ability to prevent exploitation in the future. Yet in England and Wales there is still no comprehensive guardianship service available to them.

“Our campaigns around this issue have huge public support and demonstrate the public care about the lives of these particularly vulnerable children. That is why so many of us are calling on the Home Secretary to urgently make this happen.”


To see a copy of the letter or find out more please contact:

Charlie Neal, The Children’s Society Charlie.neal@childrenssociety.org.uk or call 0207 8414520

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK: s.geoghegan@ecpat.org.uk, 0203 903 4630

Notes to editors

About the Children’s Society

The Children’s Society is a national charity that works with the most vulnerable children and young people in Britain today. We listen. We support. We act. Because no child should feel alone. 

ECPAT UK is a leading children’s rights organisation campaigning to protect children from trafficking and transnational exploitation. We support children everywhere to uphold their rights and to live a life free from abuse and exploitation. ECPAT UK has a long history of campaigning, having produced the first research into child trafficking in the UK in 2001 and advocating for changes in policy and legislation to improve the response of the UK Government and its international counterparts to such abuse. We also work directly with young victims of trafficking, whose experiences and voices inform all areas of our work. ECPAT UK is part of the ECPAT International network, which is present in 95 countries, working to end child exploitation. Find out more: www.ecpat.org.uk

[1] The third interim report: Independent Child Trafficking Advocates was published on 21 March 2019 as part of the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/modern-slavery-act-2015-review-third-interim-report