Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy: first annual progress report

The first annual progress report sets out the progress made during the first year of implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.

Section 5: Child Trafficking

Implementation structures

Section 4 of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy brings together the specific elements of the three action areas which relate to children who are, or may be, victims of human trafficking and exploitation. For the purposes of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, a child is defined as a person under 18 years of age.

The Child Trafficking Strategy Group meets on a quarterly basis. The group is chaired by the Scottish Government. There is cross-membership between the Child Trafficking Strategy Group and the three Action Area Implementation Groups, to help coordinate and share information.

Membership of the group includes:

  • The Scottish Government (child protection policy, looked after children policy, human trafficking policy)
  • End Child Prostitution and Trafficking ( ECPAT)
  • United Nations Children’s Fund ( UNICEF)
  • Police Scotland
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
    ( NHS GGC)
  • Home Office
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS)
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration ( SCRA)
  • JustRight Scotland
  • Barnardo’s
  • The Scottish Guardianship Service (Aberlour and Scottish Refugee Council)
  • Office of the Children’s Commissioner
  • Stirling University Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA)
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • Glasgow City Council

Action Area 1: identify victims and support them to safety and recovery

The impact of trafficking and exploitation can be devastating for any victim, but the effect on child victims, who will normally be more vulnerable to coercion and abuse than adults, can be even greater.

A child victim of human trafficking or exploitation is a victim of child abuse. Potential victims of trafficking under the age of 18 will automatically be entered into the National Referral Mechanism process – consent is not required – and support will be provided by local authorities through child protection processes.

International evidence [10] confirms the likelihood that an unaccompanied child in Europe will have been exploited or trafficked at some stage from point of forced displacement in the migratory journeys or once in Europe or the UK.

Scotland has led the way in the UK in having, since 2010, specialist independent advocates for unaccompanied children, almost all of whom have sought and many have received international protection, and around 40% have been recognised as having survived trafficking or exploitation. The Scottish Guardianship Service comprises child-centred professionals with a distinctive skillset and knowledge base at the intersection of asylum, trafficking and social welfare, which enables guardians to complement but be independent of the lead local authority social worker to help this very vulnerable group of children and young people.

‘Thriving not just surviving: Supporting Recovery of young male survivors of child trafficking’

The Scottish Guardianship Service was successful in receiving funding from Comic Relief to support this project to help improve the mental health of unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked young men. The grant is for £149,910 over 36 months. The project will be working in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde service ‘The Anchor’ psychological trauma service for trafficking victims who will provide support and guidance in developing resilience building groups.

The project will provide early intervention for young men who are experiencing mental health challenges, with the aim of reducing the severity of their condition and increasing their ability to manage their condition. The groups will aim to strengthen mental health through building resilience to help them confront and cope with life’s challenges, and to maintain their wellbeing in the face of adversity.

This programme will help young men to learn more about the body and mind and how trauma, childhood adversity, grief and loss can have an impact on their wellbeing. The young men will be supported to create a personalised self-management plan including themes like building social capital, participating in activities that promote wellbeing, and developing coping strategies.

The service helps them to access the assistance they need, when they need it, and to make informed decisions about their future. On referral, the young person is appointed a guardian, who provides a point of contact and continuity of support as they progress through the asylum and immigration system. The Scottish Guardianship Service is funded by the Scottish Government and managed and delivered by the Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour Child Care Trust.

In 2017, 63 children were considered by the National Referral Mechanism process as having been trafficked. This was an increase from 47 in 2016. Vietnam continues to be the country where the highest number of victims (38) originate from. More child victims were males (39) than females (24) with 28 males having been subject to labour exploitation. More females (8) continue to be subject to sexual exploitation than males (2). There are also 12 children for whom the type of exploitation they were subject to is unknown.

The Scottish Government has revised the indicators of concern for child protection registration to separate out exploitation including trafficking. The most recent child protection figures for 2016/2017 show a rise in the number of child sexual exploitation concerns (from 12 to 52), although the number of child trafficking concerns remain much lower and so are not reported individually.

Section 12 of the Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 was implemented in January 2018. This requires that where the age of a victim of human trafficking is uncertain, but there are reasonable grounds to believe they are under 18 years of age, the relevant authorities must presume the victim is a child for the purpose of receiving immediate age-appropriate support and services until their age is formally established. Following extensive development and consultation, the Scottish Government in March 2018 published revised age assessment guidance to reflect the new requirements. The revised guidance also includes a specific appendix to support taking a trauma-informed approach to age assessment.

Child Protection Committees ( CPCs) play a crucial role in coordinating and improving child protection provision across Scotland, and have been closely involved in implementing the Strategy. During 2017, CPCs across Scotland undertook a self-assessment exercise supported by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland ( CELCIS), in relation to the relevant actions for CPCs within the Strategy. This work is being used to support CPCs as they continue to implement the Strategy.

The Scottish Government continues to take forward the Child Protection Improvement Programme, of which child trafficking is a specific work stream.

"Thank you so much for everything you did to help me with my case."

A joint learning session was facilitated for the national Child Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation Groups in January 2018. Attended by the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, the session was designed to ensure appropriate linking up regarding joint issues such as understanding trauma, internet safety and use of data.

The Scottish Government has funded a joint police and social work project to develop a revised model for undertaking child protection joint investigative interviews. This revised model takes account of best evidence as well as ensuring that any new model would be victim centred and trauma informed. This is described in more detail in section 3.

COPFS continues to apply the Lord Advocate’s Guidelines regarding the presumption against prosecution of persons who are the victims of trafficking, slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour and who have committed offences as a consequence thereof. The Lord Advocate’s Guidelines contain a specific, less onerous presumption against the prosecution of children who are the victims of human trafficking and commit offences as a consequence thereof.

Action Area 2: identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity

The second annual report showing progress against the actions in the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation was published in April 2018. Progress includes activity at a national and local level to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, encourage reporting and share best practice.

In May 2017, The National Child Sexual Exploitation Group ran a series of workshops to encourage Child Protection Committees to share key learning in relation to local area approaches to the care and protection of young people experiencing or at risk of sexual abuse or exploitation.

A Partners Intelligence Toolkit has been designed to better harness the intelligence held by colleagues across different agencies that can be used to build perpetrator profiles and assist Police Scotland in effectively deploying resources. This work began in relation to child sexual exploitation, gathering intelligence such as car registrations, addresses, names and locations. The toolkit was piloted in Glasgow and is now being rolled out to Dundee and Aberdeen.

Action Area 3: address the conditions that foster trafficking and exploitation

The Scottish Government has commissioned research into the routes into trafficking for children. The Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection and Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (both based at the University of Stirling) are jointly taking forward the research. It is anticipated that the research will:

  • provide a comprehensive understanding of how many children and young people have been identified as trafficked across Scotland; and
  • establish routes to trafficking (geographically, demographically and socially).

Looking forward

The Scottish Government is considering re-establishing a short life working group to oversee delivery of the actions within the National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People.

The Child Trafficking Strategy Group will consider whether there is a need for training to support the updated age assessment guidance.

Section 11 of the Act, when implemented, makes provision for an independent child trafficking guardian to be appointed to assist, support and represent a child where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child is, or may be, a victim of human trafficking or is vulnerable to becoming a victim of human trafficking, and no person in the UK has parental rights or responsibilities in relation to the child.
A consultation to clarify the detailed roles and responsibilities and consider how it will work alongside existing statutory provision will be undertaken this year. The current timeframe of autumn 2018 reflects the need to consider on-going policy developments on wider issues, which need to be reflected to ensure Scotland is providing the best possible support for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. In the meantime, the Scottish Guardianship Service will continue to provide additional support to unaccompanied children, including those who may be victims of trafficking, as described earlier in this section.

The UK Government’s proposals for reforming the National Referral Mechanism refer specifically to making the process more child-centred. The Child Trafficking Strategy Group will engage with the Home Office to ensure this approach extends to Scotland.


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