Trafficking and exploitation strategy: fourth annual progress report - 2020 to 2021

Report setting out progress implementing the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy from 2020 to 2021.

Section 4:

Child Trafficking

The Child Trafficking Strategy Group (CTSG) 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 CTSG meets on a quarterly basis, however over the pandemic these meetings were paused and the group was convened in March 2021. There is cross- membership between the Child Trafficking Strategy Group and the three Action Area Implementation Groups to facilitate the co-ordination and sharing of information.

Membership of the group includes:

  • Barnardo's
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT)
  • Glasgow City Council (Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership)
  • Home Office
  • JustRight Scotland
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC)
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Scottish Government (Child Protection policy, Human Trafficking policy)
  • Scottish Guardianship Service (Aberlour and Scottish Refugee Council)
  • University of Stirling Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection

Looking Back

The third annual progress report identified a number of areas that the CTSG would continue to deliver and take forward.

These included:

  • addressing barriers to unaccompanied and trafficked children accessing good quality interpretation services, legal advice and further education;
  • exploring the increase in trafficking of children who are UK nationals and are potential victims of child criminal exploitation by engaging with Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy;
  • consider the recommendations from research commissioned by the Scottish Government on the routes into trafficking for children; as well as exploring the delivery of workshops to raise awareness about trafficking and exploitation with practitioners;
  • deliver training on the implementation of the revised age assessment guidance;
  • deliver Scotland's National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People with a particular focus on deterring perpetrators from committing abuse online; prioritise action to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland; and
  • work to develop the Independent Child Trafficking Guardians service, and the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.

More information on the actions above and other work streams of the CTSG will be set out in this section. New areas of focus for the period ahead will also be highlighted, taking into account the impact of COVID-19 and wider considerations which may arise from the UK Government's New Plan for Immigration and Nationality and Borders Bill.

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

Work continues on the implementation of Section 11 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 to launch the statutory Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG) service for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, where there is reason to believe they might have been, or are at risk of being, trafficked.

To assist with the development of the new service, the Scottish Guardianship Service (SGS) hosted two focus groups on behalf of the Scottish Government in September 2020 to hear first-hand from current guardians and young people who have received support from a guardian.

As part of the commercial tendering process, an informal exercise took place in January 2021 for potential suppliers to note their interest in delivering the new service. A commitment was subsequently made in the Scottish Government'sProgramme for Government 2021/22[29] to launch the service in the summer of 2022. The next phase of work will be to launch the commercial tender and lay regulations for the new service. Whilst this work is underway the Scottish Government will continue to fund the SGS to provide a guardian to trafficked and unaccompanied children throughout Scotland.

Funding for the SGS to provide additional legal and practical support to unaccompanied children and young people, who are victims, or at risk, of trafficking has continued. Last year the service celebrated its ten-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion a members' debate was held in November 2020 at the Scottish Parliament. The debate was an opportunity for the Minister for Children and Young People, alongside fellow MSPs, to pay tribute to the service and the outstanding work it has delivered over the past 10 years, reaching over 700 children and young people across 29 local authorities.

"I am truly grateful to TARA for their support to me and I feel it is the time to say goodbye. I wish the team all the best and I know that I can phone in the future if I have any questions."

The SGS have also been successful in securing additional funding through the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). The AMIF project "Integrating Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking and Trafficked Children into Scottish Communities" has enhanced the service by increasing the number of Guardians available to deal with the escalating level of new arrivals and ongoing caseloads, extend integration support and deliver participation activities. This has included the expansion of the SGS befriending service which matches unaccompanied children and young people with a trained volunteer befriender to help support their recovery and reduce social isolation.

The AMIF fund has also enabled the growth of a mental health project to meet the needs of young people supported by the SGS in partnership with existing mental health services. In addition, newly arrived young people are also given supplementary support through two new support workers to help orientate vulnerable young people with their local area and promote integration.

A Home Office pilot programme to devolve child decision-making within the National Referral Mechanism was launched earlier this year. The Scottish Government and COSLA, alongside other key partners, have been working closely with Home Office on the roll-out of the pilot in Scotland. The purpose of the pilot is to test whether determining if a child is a victim of trafficking within existing child protection structures is a more appropriate model for making trafficking decisions for children.

Pilot sites were identified via a competitive process, which was open to all local authorities in the United Kingdom with responsibility for children's social care. A diverse range of local authority areas across the UK were selected to be part of the pilot programme, allowing the model to be tested in different settings. Glasgow City Council is one of ten selected pilot sites and will be the only Scottish local authority involved. The Home Office has offered a package of support to each site which includes funding, training and technical expertise. A strategic working group has been created by the Scottish Government to support Glasgow City Council and operational partners with the roll-out of the pilot. The programme will be subject to a rigorous evaluation which is being overseen by an independently chaired evaluation panel.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Psychological Trauma Service (NHSGGC PTS) continued to provide specialised mental health support to victims and through the pandemic this moved to remote delivery. Further to this, the mental health Allies Group project has continued to be delivered remotely for another year in partnership with NHSGGC Psychological Trauma Service and SGS. This project has been developed to build individual and community resilience, providing young people who have been victims of trafficking with coping strategies to help them manage symptoms of trauma.

A range of training on identifying and supporting victims of trafficking was delivered remotely over the course of the last year. The Scottish Government funded the delivery of a series of training sessions for first-line practitioners on the updated age-assessment practice guidance.[30] The sessions were developed in partnership with COSLA and delivered by JustRight Scotland and Immigration Social Work Services. Six sessions were delivered over the course of the year and given their success, work is ongoing to deliver a similar series of training this year.

Following a public consultation, the Scottish Government published National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021,[31] replacing the previous 2014 version. The guidance includes advice on identifying and supporting victims of child trafficking and exploitation and reflects learning from recent cases. Following publication, local areas are beginning to consider how to adapt and change local processes, procedures and practice and then subsequently implement those adaptations and changes. The Scottish Government has established a national implementation group to support this phase of work.

The Scottish Government continues to take forward work to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (the "Bill") to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law to the maximum extent of the Scottish Parliament's powers, signalling a revolution in children's rights in Scotland.

On 12 April 2021, a reference of certain provisions of the Bill was made by the Attorney General and the Advocate General for Scotland to the UK Supreme Court. A hearing before the UK Supreme Court took place on 28 and 29 June 2021. On 6 October 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that certain parts of the Bill fall out with the competence of the Scottish Parliament. While the Supreme Court judgment means that the Bill cannot receive Royal Assent in its current form, the Scottish Government is urgently and carefully considering the most effective way forward for this important legislation.

Action Area 2: identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity

Tackling human trafficking requires a multi-agency response. Police Scotland are continuing to develop the Partners Intelligence Portal, previously known as External Partners Portal, for Intelligence Collection, which is a secure and confidential electronic system that enables key partners to share important information they receive during the course of their work. As mentioned in the third annual progress report, the first pilot took place in the Highland and Islands, with training for the pilot provided to Barnardo's Scotland and Scottish Women's Football. After a review of the pilot and feedback from external and internal partners, training for the Portal will be improved and made available to other agencies.

Police Scotland, alongside Barnardo's, have also established a Child Exploitation Operational Working Group to improve training for frontline police officers to recognise the signs, risks and vulnerabilities of children and young people who have been, or are at risk of, being exploited. To help build a more accurate picture of child exploitation across Scotland, Police Scotland have developed a data collection tool. The information collected will be subject to analysis and good practice in managing and supporting children who have been exploited across Scotland and the rest of the UK will be shared with agencies.

The Scottish Government continues to fund and work with justice and social work agencies to improve the quality and process for Joint Investigative Interviews (JIIs) with vulnerable child witnesses. During 2020/21 a number of Sheriffdoms piloted the new Scottish Child Interview Model for JIIs. This new model is both trauma-informed and achieves best evidence through more robust planning and interview techniques.

The Divert Strand of Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy aims to prevent exploitation of children and young people by serious organised crime and provide opportunities to divert them from such involvement. As part of this work, Action for Children's Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention Service is now operational in Edinburgh. The service aims to divert young people on the cusp of serious organised crime from a life of criminality and uses peer mentors to work with vulnerable young people to encourage them to make positive life choices. Plans are in development for the service to be expanded to Dundee.

In 2020 the Scottish Government published the final delivery report of the 2016 National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation.[32] It set out the achievements and activity delivered over the last four years, in partnership with statutory and voluntary organisations, to strengthen Scotland's response to child sexual abuse and exploitation. The report also noted the range of ongoing efforts through Government-led and Government- supported work streams, in tackling these forms of child abuse. In particular, the report highlighted the impact and value of workshops and training delivered across Scotland since 2017 to raise awareness of child trafficking and encourage practitioners to share key learning in relation to local approaches to the care and protection of young people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.[33]

"I am feeling good. I want to give my deepest thank you for taking care of me, for listening to me and for guiding me."

Police Scotland have been working with Barnardo's Scotland on the Reducing the Risk of Sexual Exploitation (RISE) project. The partnership is working towards reducing risk, harm and impact of abuse and exploitation for children and young people. RISE supports police and partner agencies to identify, protect and support children and young people who have experienced abuse/exploitation or who are at risk of being harmed as well as the provision of direct support to children, young people and their families.

The Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Barnardo's Scotland published research and a policy paper 'Sexual Exploitation of Children Involved in the Children's Hearings System'[34] in October 2020. The research was the first national study on child sexual exploitation in Scotland. It reported on the prevalence and pathways of children into child sexual exploitation, as well as exploring whether child sexual exploitation is considered in the decision making by Children's Hearings for children who are victims of sexual exploitation. One of the recommendations from the report was for the Scottish Government to take responsibility for the recommendations in this report and assign their delivery to an appropriate national working group (either new or existing) with appropriate strategic oversight and accountability processes.

Following on from the research, in January 2021, SCRA and Barnardo's Scotland established the Understanding Child exploitation in Scotland (UCES) Group to raise awareness of all forms of child exploitation, gather the evidence base, increase collaboration, and influence and strengthen decision making. There is a wide range of membership from third sector, academics, operational partners and the Scottish Government. To mark child exploitation awareness day on 18 March 2021, a publicity campaign was launched by the group based around case studies highlighting different forms of child exploitation and the interconnections between them.[35]

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

The Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy identified the need to better understand routes into trafficking and exploitation for children in Scotland. In January 2018, the University of Stirling was awarded a Scottish Government proposal to undertake research on the routes into trafficking for children in Scotland. Ahead of Anti-Slavery Day 2020, research on Child Trafficking in Scotland[36] was published. The report examined the routes and circumstances of children and young people who had been identified as victims of trafficking in Scotland and the response by professionals to support and care for them. Importantly, the research included interviews with trafficked children and young people in Scotland and these first- hand accounts will inform how Scotland continues to improve the support and services available for child victims.

Response to COVID-19

The responsibility for child trafficking victims remained with local authorities throughout the pandemic. Collaboration was developed across education, health, social work and the third sector. Local partnerships reviewed local child protection processes whilst quickly adapting and re-prioritising services. Chief Officer Groups oversaw local public protection arrangements and the assessment and response to risk, vulnerability and protection across the 32 local partnerships. In addition, strong connections have been maintained with individual families through the Family Nurse Partnership Programme and our Health Visiting workforce.

"The TARA Team have been amazing and I have felt so supported during my darkest moments – thank you!"

To help ensure vulnerable children, including child victims of trafficking, received appropriate support and protection the Scottish Government published the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Supplementary National Child Protection Guidance[37] and made provisions in emergency legislation. The guidance is intended to support child protection leadership and provides advice about streamlining current processes to take account of challenges without compromising actions to protect children.

This guidance is complemented by the work of the COVID-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group[38] (CLG) which brings together national and local government and a range of other partners across Children and Families Services, Health, Education, Justice and the Third Sector. The Group's work primarily focuses on children, young people and families experiencing vulnerabilities and those on the edges of becoming vulnerable.

The Scottish Government has aimed to develop a holistic, evidence-based approach to the needs of children and young people who are at risk during the pandemic. Regular data collection provides intelligence to CLG, bringing together intelligence from the 32 Chief Officer Groups and national agencies and delivery partners including the third sector, Police Scotland and the NHS. The dataset includes key data on what is happening to support children and young people on the child protection register, those looked after and those on the edge of care. A second data set covering a range of aspects of adult protection has been established to help provide a broader picture on related issues such as domestic abuse, substance misuse and specific vulnerable populations.

Throughout this period, the Scottish Government has continued to work with the Home Office, COSLA, and other key stakeholders to address emerging issues for children and young people who have been a victim, or are at risk, of trafficking. Part of this engagement has included exploring quarantine arrangements within local authorities; travel and social- distancing arrangements; and tackling digital inclusion issues for young people. The SGS has continued to support young people in-person and remotely to help ensure sufficient support was in place.

Digital inclusion was a priority for this cohort of vulnerable young people since access to a digital device was key to ensuring appropriate support online from essential services and enabled many to attend online classes or remote appointments. To support our digital inclusion efforts, the Scottish Government invested £15 million as part of Phase 2 of the Connecting Scotland programme to help 23,000 households, including care leavers up to the age of 26, get online. With regard to school-aged learners, the Scottish Government invested £25 million to tackle digital exclusion when learning from home, and for post-school learners, a £5 million Digital Inclusion Fund was launched through the Scottish Funding Council.

This fund was specifically for further education students experiencing financial hardship and aimed to assist them purchasing additional equipment for studying remotely. Early in 2020, the Scottish Funding Council relaxed its guidance on the use of bursary funding, to allow colleges to use these funds to address digital poverty. An additional £5 million was announced as part of the allocation of student support in February 2021, which colleges can use to provide more students with IT equipment and technology as well as other student support-related purposes.

The pandemic has led to children and young people spending increasingly more time in the digital environment for learning and socialising. This led to an increased governmental focus on online risks and ways in which young people could be exploited online.

A range of activity to support children and young people, their parents, carers and professionals working with children in being more resilient online had been ongoing prior to COVID-19. In early 2020 the Government rapidly increased efforts to support awareness raising of online risks and signposting to resources, guidance and materials with partners including Young Scot, Crimestoppers, Barnardo's Scotland, Education Scotland, Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency. A coronavirus hub was launched on the Parent Club webpages, providing help, advice and guidance to parents and carers, as well as launching a marketing campaign promoting messaging through channels including TV, radio and digital.

In March 2021 the Scottish Government invested in renewed awareness raising activity focussed on online risks to children and young people. This included a Government-led campaign focused on better identifying signs of child exploitation, supporting a Child Protection Committees (CPC) Scotland campaign aimed at parents and carers to be actively interested in their children's online activity and supporting Police Scotland enforcement activity, which included a campaign targeting potential perpetrators.[39] Evaluation of this public messaging activity revealed that the Scottish Government's digital and social media adverts were seen 8.4 million times; the reach of CPC Scotland content on social media channels led to 180,000 views on Facebook, 226,000 on Twitter and Instagram posts seen 6,000 times; while Police Scotland's TV activity resulted in an estimated 10 million impressions.

Looking forward

The CTSG will continue to build on the progress made throughout this year and will prioritise responding to emerging trends from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of this work will include developing a series of workshops for practitioners to help raise awareness on child exploitation and trafficking in Scotland; funding training on implementation of the revised age assessment guidance; working with COSLA and the Home Office on the scaling up of the National Transfer Scheme; and continuing to work with the Home Office on the roll-out of pilots across the UK, including Glasgow, to test the devolution of NRM decision-making for children to local authorities, and the wider implications for Scotland.

The CTSG will continue to strengthen links with the Divert Strand of the Serious Organised Crime Strategy and the upcoming Youth Justice Vision to address child exploitation in a more holistic way. A briefing paper is planned for dissemination to practitioners on criminal exploitation of children, young people and adults which will open up a national conversation on child criminal exploitation.

A joint campaign between Barnardo's Scotland, Fearless and Police Scotland regarding child criminal exploitation will be promoted. Using real-life anonymised case studies provided by Barnardo's Scotland, the campaign will tell the story of how three young people were exploited.

Review the findings from the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) Third Evaluation Report on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in the UK, including in Scotland.

The new Independent Child Trafficking Guardians service will launch in summer 2022 and as part of this the Scottish Government will be taking forward a commercial tender and laying the necessary regulations.

The Scottish Government remains committed to the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable[40] and the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can proceed and is continuing at pace.

Through the implementation of the UNCRC the rights of all children should be fully realised and protected. Between now and March 2024 we will invest £4m per year over three years to support the delivery of a fundamental shift in how children's rights are considered and implemented in Scotland, including for child victims of trafficking. Respecting, protecting and fulfilling children's rights is central to our commitment to #KeepThePromise and to Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC), which will continue to underpin how we love, care for, and support all children and young people in Scotland.

The CTSG will continue to closely assess the UK's New Plan for Immigration and Nationality and Borders Bill as it continues its parliamentary passage. We will consider the impact on devolved age- assessment competencies and wider reforms on modern slavery which may impact child victims of trafficking and exploitation in Scotland.

"Your service is excellent. I cannot think of anything to help you improve your service."



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