Since the fieldwork for this report was completed there have been substantial changes and developments in relation to concerns around child trafficking in Scotland. The impact of COVID-19 on the exploitation of children and young people, and other aspects of service delivery and responses, is not yet known. There may be changes in movement and routes into the UK and types of exploitation, as those seeking to exploit children adapt to internal and external restrictions and opportunities. Over the coming months and years this will become clearer, in addition to any changes to service provision for unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving in the UK.
Prior to COVID-19, services in Scotland began to identify UK victims of child trafficking and make referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). There have also been improvements to the use of Inter-Agency Referral Discussions in the child protection process, which should help improve the identification of children who are vulnerable to trafficking. Since last year, decisions regarding victims of trafficking, following a referral to the NRM, are made by trained specialists in the designated Home Office Competent Authority. These developments and their impact on identification and improved practice should become more apparent and are likely to be reported in future strategy updates.
In 2020, the Scottish Government published The Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy: Third Annual Progress Report and Strategy Review, which detailed the progress made to date on the Strategy and next steps. The Consultation and Analysis of the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian service was also published in 2020 and development of the new service is currently underway.