A new report by the Refugee Council and The Children’s Society has highlighted gaps in the support being given to trafficked children, which could leave them vulnerable to further exploitation. This review of the care arrangements for trafficked children, funded by the Home Office, identified opportunities to protect them are being missed because of a culture of doubt and suspicion among professionals.
The review included interviews with children and young people who had been trafficked, professionals who work with them, and a survey of local authorities in England.
Over half of the children in the research had their ages disputed, and some had undergone multiple age assessments before it was agreed by the authorities that they were children. The consequences of having their age incorrectly identified were that some were placed in adult prison or in immigration detention, or had been housed in shared accommodation for adults.
Only a minority of the children were happy with the care and support they had received from their social workers. Children often had multiple social workers or key workers, resulting in little continuity of care and children having to frequently repeat their stories of the traumatic abuse and exploitation they had experienced. Local authorities reported that they sometimes experience barriers to providing an allocated permanent social worker, and stakeholders emphasised that whoever supports the child needs the skills to manage complex situations.
To improve the support and care for trafficked children, we are calling on the government to provide these children with an independent trusted adult from the moment they come to the authorities’ attention. This person will act on their behalf and can help guide them through the extremely complex system to ensure they receive the support and protection they need.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
This report helps us to understand what support is needed to help children recover from their horrific experiences and learn to build trusting relationships with adults again. The current system is not doing this adequately; we need to get better at looking for the signs, helping children to escape and making sure that they no longer need to fear their traffickers. There’s plenty of room for improvement in current policy and practice. We look forward to working with government to make the necessary changes to ensure we do our very best to provide the children with the protection they need.
You can read the full report here
A briefing is available here
Our press release is available here