Services ‘blind to child trafficking’

    Social services are “closing their eyes” to the problem of
    trafficked children, according to the director of what was the UK’s
    only safehouse, which closed last week.

    Lee Ruth, of private firm Integrated Care, which opened the house
    in April to accommodate nine 16-18 year olds, said it had been
    forced to shut because it had received no referrals.

    He said social workers often failed to recognise children who were
    trafficked, adding that several workers from London councils
    wanting advice had made enquiries about the house but not followed
    them up.

    “Local authorities are ignoring the problem. Trafficked children
    need specialist skills,” said Ruth. Younger children could be cared
    for by foster carers, but those aged between 16 and 18 would be
    better placed in a semi-independent environment such as the
    safehouse, he added.

    A spokesperson for West Sussex Council, which opened England’s
    first safehouse which closed last year, said the number of
    trafficked children had fallen dramatically in the area. She added
    that the council was using alternative provision, such as
    specialist foster care, because it believed children would be
    safer.

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