Sixty Second Interview with Nushra Mapstone
By Amy Taylor
The government has recently put proposals on a UK action plan to tackle human trafficking out to consultation. Amy Taylor talks to Nushra Mapstone, professional officer for England at the British Association of Social Workers, about BASW’s response which was published earlier this month.
You have raised concerns in your consultation response that the government’s plans focus too much on raising awareness of child trafficking amongst the police and immigration officials at the expense of other frontline staff. Why do you think it is so important to widen this about?
Firstly, I think that I need to make it clear that BASW is completely supportive of the government’s proposals to raise awareness of child trafficking amongst police and immigration officials as these are two critical agencies that deal with trafficking and who need to be able to respond sensitively and appropriatey to children in these situations. However, we are disappointed that priority to raise awareness amongst other professionals groups is missing from the government’s strategy. Child trafficking is clearly a child protection issue and needs to be something that at the very least, those who have safeguarding responsibilities such as social workers are well versed in, enabling them to work competently and confidently with children who have been or are at risk of being trafficked.
What do you think the UK action plan on trafficking proposed by the government should focus on in terms of children?
We would like the government to pledge its support to carrying out more research on child trafficking as the proposals make it very clear that we do not really know the true scale of the problem which potentially marginalises trafficked children even further i.e.out of sight, out of mind. Groups like ECPACT and AFRUCA have already done some excellent work in this area. There is a real danger that the UK action plan does not pay enough attention to the needs of children. The plan should contain a section that is just about children rather than referring to them intermittently. This in itself would give a positive message to children about their value i.e. Every Child Matters.
Do you think child trafficking should be an area of priority for local safeguarding children boards? If so why?
Absolutely. Child trafficking must be seen in the context of child abuse rather than something different, beyond the confines of the child protection system. In the early 1980s there was a lot of ignorance about child sexual abuse but thanks to concerted efforts to raise awareness and develop training, practice has moved on for the better. Local Safeguarding Children Boards need to work hard to use their influence to arrive at a similar point. In the current political climate, there is a tendency for some agencies and professionals to shirk their responsibilities to trafficked children claiming that it is an immigration matter. This is not acceptable and blatant discrimination. Trafficked children are children first who should enjoy the same rights to protection as any other children.
Do you think the consultation sets out enough safeguards for children who are privately fostered?
Unfortunately, no. The consultation makes no reference whatsoever to children who are privately fostered. This is a huge oversight and an example of a not so joined-up approach. In part five of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry Report (ironically entitled Learning from experience) Lord Laming highlights some of the deficiencies at that time in terms of regulation and private fostering. The death of Victoria Climbié was a watershed in many respects given that it has led to a lot of the current reforms taking place today in children’s services. However, one of the key lessons we need to learn from the tragic death of this child is how can we better safeguard trafficked children who are privately fostered?
Do you think the current arrangements for children who are privately fostered are adequate to ensure their safety?
Whilst we welcome the introduction of the private fostering notification system in England in July 2005 to strengthen provisions made in the Children Act 1989, we remain very concerned about the plight of privately fostered children across the country. We know that most local authorities are struggling with recruitment and retention of qualified and experienced children and families social workers and so inevitably the scarce resources that are available are largely absorbed by child protection work. We hear time and time again, that the government has an amibtious agenda for change for children. On one hand this is commendable but on another it is disingenuous without proper resources (both human and financial) to realise such ambitions.