There is no special care available for trafficked children, and that is wrong
The failure of our system in properly protecting victims of child trafficking is in many ways a national scandal that must be addressed by Government, says Peter Bone MP.
When I was first elected as a new Member of Parliament in 2005, at one of my constituency surgeries I got a note through the door. It was anonymous, but the person who wrote it was a prostitute from Northampton who was very concerned at what was happening to young women who were being brought into this country. I thus became aware of this issue and I then met someone called Anthony Steen, who at the time was MP for Totnes—a most extraordinary person. He changed the view of modern-day slavery not only in this country, but across the whole of Europe. He formed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, which I went on to chair in later years.
In the time that I have been actively campaigning on human trafficking, the Government’s handling of the issue has radically improved. In 2014 the Home Office published its ‘four p’s’ strategy on modern slavery to pursue the perpetrators, prevent people engaging in the modern slave trade, protect victims and prepare organisations to support victims through extra funding. Since the roll out of this strategy, statistics taken from on the National Reporting Mechanism for victims of human trafficking show increases every year. This means that on the whole, we are identifying more victims and getting them help more effectively.
However, the system may be working for adult victims but for children trafficked in our country the situation can still be bleak. The failure of our system in properly protecting victims of child trafficking is in many ways a national scandal that must be addressed by Government.
Say, for example, a child is trafficked to this country from Moldova and the police rescue them. You would think this is a good situation, however in reality they are far from safe. This is because they are immediately handed over to the care of children’s social services administered by local government. In my experience these services are often overstretched and inefficient as it is and struggle to take on this very specific type of vulnerable young person. There is no requirement for the local authority to recognise the child as having been trafficked. It just treats them like a missing or homeless child. There is no special care available for trafficked children, and that is wrong.
The victim is then placed into care like any other social services case, often in the same local area they were rescued from. Often, tragically the result is that the gang that originally trafficked the child find them and force them back into a miserable life of exploitation.
It is outrageous that we treat adult victims of trafficking better than children. If you are rescued by police and over the age of 18, you go into the national support system and given access to specialised help and safe houses all over the country. This begs the question, why on earth do we treat children worse than adults?
The Philippines has a great problem with trafficking, but it deals with child victims so much better than we do. They are put in a safe home, where they could never be discovered, they are looked after by qualified staff and they go to school.
To the Government’s credit it has launched a pilot scheme partnered with Barnardo’s to provide Independent Child Trafficking Advocates to provide specialist support to trafficked children in some areas.
However, this has yet to be expanded nationally as Central Government do not want to take on another responsibility and extra cost and local government does not want to lose part of its empire.
It is a shame that with so much progress in fighting trafficking as a whole that the UK is still failing vulnerable children in its care. The Government should act quickly to take central responsibility for these children and protect them from further harm.
Peter Bone is MP for Conservative MP for Wellingborough
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