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

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