Trafficked children are being put at risk by inconsistent support from social workers, a Home Office-funded report has concluded.
The Still at Risk report, produced by The Children’s Society and Refugee Council, found victims of child trafficking are still being inadequately protected, leaving them at risk of going missing from care or experiencing further abuse and exploitation.
The charities interviewed 17 young victims of trafficking about their experiences of social services and other agencies for the report. Only a few of the 17 said they had had a positive experience with social workers with one saying that their key worker seemed to want to avoid being seen with her in public.
Another of the young people said: “Social service asked my foster mum to throw me out on the street. They say because they done the age assessment and also because you are illegal immigrant that they don’t want to have anything to do with me.”
The report found that local authorities lack appropriate accommodation for victims whose age is unknown and lack knowledge and understanding of the challenges trafficked children face, a gap that leads to inconsistency in the support they receive.
“It is vital that trafficked children are treated as victims of a crime – and not as criminals – by professionals responsible for their safety and welfare,” said Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society.
“Progress has been made in recent years, but much more needs to be done to keep trafficked children safe and help them rebuild their lives.”
The report says more should be done to ensure that statutory and practice guidelines are followed by all agencies. It also proposes the creation of a national system of support that would allow children to be moved to another area if they remain under threat from their traffickers.
Immigration minister Mark Harper said: “The government commissioned this report as part of our wider work to better understand and eradicate all forms of human trafficking and we will look carefully at its findings.”
He added that the government is already taking action against trafficking including plans to table a draft Modern Slavery Bill in Parliament.
In 2011 there were 2,077 potential trafficking victims identified in the UK, of which 24% were children and 7% were of an unknown age.