Inter-agency guidance on child trafficking

This toolkit is designed as Scottish practice guidance to be used with the Scottish Government National Child Protection Guidance.

6. Referring children

Whenever an agency or professional have concerns that a child they are in contact with is, or may have been, trafficked they should initially consult the indicator matrix and / or contact social work or the police, (see Appendix C). Where their initial assessment indicates there are grounds to believe the child may have been trafficked, the actions noted below should be followed.

Agencies and individuals should bear in mind that it is essential to take timely and decisive action where child trafficking is suspected because of the risk of the child being moved.

Often agencies would be expected to obtain the consent of the child's parent or carer regarding any referral. However, in cases where the child may be trafficked, it is possible that their carer is involved in the trafficking or exploitation and seeking their consent could put the child at further risk or lead to their being moved elsewhere.

It is therefore recommended that unless there is clear evidence that seeking consent would in no way harm the child, referring agencies should not seek the carer's consent or consult with parents / carers at the initial stage.

Recognising the child protection implications of trafficking, social work and police will be the lead agencies for completing the assessment and co-ordinating all child referrals to the Competent Authority. All relevant agencies will be expected to contribute information to the assessment following their initial referral to police / social work.

While the following process has been agreed for suspected child trafficking cases the multi-agency child protection procedures remain the primary guidance for the care and protection of children.

  • Where a child / young person is suspected or is known to have been trafficked the child's safety is paramount and all necessary child protection actions and procedures should be followed to ensure they are protected.
  • Agencies and / or individuals should not wait until a child discloses, agrees or perceives they have been trafficked to initiate procedures. Research to date indicates children, apart from being threatened to remain silent, often are not aware they are victims of trafficking.
  • Where there are suspicions about trafficking a referral should be made, and ongoing discussion initiated with social work / police and where appropriate other relevant agencies such as health, in line with child protection guidance.
  • A multi-agency child protection case discussion should be convened and in addition to usual key agencies, a member of the UK Border Agency should also be invited if there are immigration / asylum issues.
  • It should be remembered that all information shared at a child protection case discussion / meeting is for the purposes of child protection. Information gathered or shared should not be used to progress immigration issues.
  • A Child Trafficking Assessment ( CTA) should be completed by social work / police prior to the case discussion. It is likely there may not be substantial amounts of information at this initial stage (international agencies and organisations may need to be consulted during the assessment stage).
  • The case discussion should consider ongoing risks, agree broad protection actions, consider the need for a multi-agency response and refer via core group processes.
  • The case discussion will also agree if the case requires to be referred to the Competent Authority through the completion of a National Referral Mechanism form.
  • Referrals can be made immediately to the Competent Authority (social work or police) if it is clear that children have been trafficked, before the CTA is completed or a case discussion called. However, in such cases it is the child protection procedures which should be paramount and any concerns should always be made to social work / police child protection.
  • The Competent Authority ( UK Human Trafficking Centre ( UKHTC) or UK Immigration and Visas (formerly UKBA) will contact the referrer when a decision is made (see for further information). It may be that the Competent Authority requires additional information and / or further discussion before reaching a decision.

NB where children are not assessed as being trafficked by the Competent Authority there may still be child protection concerns. The possibility of trafficking should not be dismissed at this point as it may be that further information becomes apparent in the succeeding months.

  • All usual child protection procedures should follow an NRM referral and the trafficking assessment should not replace a full child protection assessment, including a comprehensive assessment of a child's needs via the IAF.

6.1 Possible indicators of child trafficking (Also see appendix C )

The attached trafficking matrix is not a validated assessment of actual, or risk of, trafficking. It is based on present best available information as to what factors in a child's circumstances may lead to the belief a child has been trafficked. It should not replace a comprehensive child protection or IAF / GIRFEC assessment.

As the two prerequisite factors for child trafficking are movement and exploitation this matrix has been adapted following Scottish research and colour coded to aid decision-making and to inform discussions. If exploitation (red E) and movement (green M) indicators are present a child trafficking assessment ( CTA) should be undertaken and a referral to the National Referral Mechanism seriously considered.

The following additional indicators were also identified as those most common in children referred to the Competent Authority in Glasgow. The presence of any of these indicators should also trigger further investigation and a possible completion of a CTA, see appendix A.

  • Socially isolated - lack of positive, meaningful relationships in child's life
  • Psychological - indications of trauma or numbing
  • Exhibits self assurance, maturity and self confidence not expected in a child of such age
  • Not registered with or attended a GP practice
  • Not enrolled in school
  • Cared for by adult/s who are not their parents and quality of relationship is not good
  • Appropriate adult is not an immediate family member (parent / sibling)

The matrix is not an exhaustive list of factors and other concerns may be present. For UK national children especially movement may involve that between and within cities, between accommodation, places of abuse within a city and movement between different people.

The indicators may apply to both UK nationals and/or migrant children and to both boys and girls and should be kept in mind when working with children when making an initial assessment. They are not questions to be directly asking children at the initial stage of enquiry.

The indicators do not replace child protection investigations and the presence, or otherwise, of trafficking suspicions should not preclude the standard child protection procedures being implemented.

If you have any further questions about child trafficking, or the National Referral Mechanism, please contact:

In respect of concerns regarding suspected trafficking of adult female victims for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation TARA can be contacted for advice on 0141 276 7724

Migrant Helpline can provide advice and assistance for adult victims of trafficking - tel 01304 203977

UKHTC also have a direct contact for information: 084477 82406 ask to speak to a Tactical Advisor -


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