Trafficking and exploitation strategy: second annual progress report

Report setting out progress implementing the trafficking and exploitation strategy in 2018 to 2019.

Section 4
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 co-ordinate and share information. 

Membership of the group includes: 

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

Looking Back 

In the first annual progress report, four different areas of work were identified that the Child Trafficking Group would continue to deliver and take forward during 2018/19. The four areas are set out below and further detail can be found in this chapter:

  • Consideration by the Scottish Government of re-establishing a working group to oversee delivery of the National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young people;
  • A consultation on the implementation of Section 11 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 relating to independent child trafficking guardians;
  • Consideration by the Group about whether there is a need for training to support the updated age-assessment guidance; and
  • Engagement with the Home Office on proposals for reforming the National Referral Mechanism to take a more child-centred approach. 

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

The Scottish Government is working with the UK Government to ensure that the reforms to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) lead to an NRM which works for Scotland and reflects our distinct systems and legislation. The Scottish Government held a consultation session with stakeholders in August 2018 to highlight issues and concerns with the reform. The Child Trafficking Strategy Group are currently pursuing the concerns highlighted with the Home Office which include timescales for decision-making and ensuring the that the process has a child-centred approach. 

A child victim of human trafficking or exploitation is a victim of child abuse. Support is provided by local authorities through child protection processes. The decision to refer a child as a potential victim of trafficking under the NRM falls within child protection duties of local authorities and should be taken within the relevant frameworks. All trafficked children are entitled to the same level of care and protection and to have their welfare safeguarded and promoted. The low level of UK nationals referred into the NRM in Scotland has been noted and is being explored with Child Protection Committees and social work.

The Scottish Guardianship Service continues to provide support and advice to unaccompanied children, 40% of whom have been recognised as having survived trafficking and exploitation; and almost all of whom have sought, and many have received, international protection. The Guardians act as independent advocates for these vulnerable children and provide specialist support on asylum, trafficking and social welfare issues. 

The Guardianship Service has partnered with a number of organisations to expand on the support they provide to unaccompanied children. This includes a collaboration with JustRight Scotland to provide a streamlined, integrated advocacy and legal advice service for unaccompanied trafficked and asylum seeking children in Scotland.

JustRight Scotland and the Scottish Guardianship Service combine their skills and specialist expertise in anti-trafficking to create a best practice model to guide, advise and support trafficked children through the multiple protection processes in Scotland, including the National Referral Mechanism, the asylum process and any age-assessment process. With the child at the centre of the model, legal advice and advocacy support are delivered in an integrated way so as to minimise duplication between the two and ensure that the child receives clear, holistic advice. 

With the support of Comic Relief, the Scottish Guardianship Service is also developing provision to support the mental health needs of unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked young men over a 3-year period. Project workshops commenced in February 2019. 

The service will link in with the National Trauma Training framework to explore ways to develop trauma-informed services and practitioners and to share learning throughout the project.

The University of Stirling are presently undertaking research exploring the educational and wellbeing needs of unaccompanied children in Scotland aged 16-18. The research will investigate to what extent the “16+ESOL” programme and its partners are meeting these needs inside and outside the classroom and comparing it to international good practice.

Work is on-going by the Scottish Government to finalise the consultation on the roles and responsibilities of the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG). The consultation is being drafted with input from both COSLA and the Scottish Guardianship Service.

Once published, the consultation will be open for a minimum period of 12 weeks. Following that, the responses will undergo analysis and the views will inform the development of the ICTG and supporting guidance. A tendering process for the new statutory service will take place in due course.

Action Area 2: Identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity

Joint workshops led by the national Child Sexual Exploitation Group and supported by members of the Child Trafficking Group have been delivered across Scotland in relation to the Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking joint agenda. 

The workshops provided an overview of national developments in relation to both child sexual exploitation and child trafficking and encouraged areas to discuss implementation at a local level; share learning and discuss what action is/or can be delivered locally and to improve our response to children and young people at risk of harm. The evaluation forms completed indicate the workshops have been successful in further awareness raising and knowledge exchange.

As part of Operation Aidant, South Ayrshire division engaged with the local community to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation. Group awareness raising sessions took place at the Skills Academy in South Ayrshire to vulnerable children who are at higher risk of being exploited because of their background. During these sessions 2 young people were identified as potentially being involved in sexually harmful behaviour and as a result of this officers from Police Scotland’s Public Protection team engaged with the children and safeguarding measures were put in place by police and Social Work. Intelligence in relation to the issues identified were also shared nationally.

Significant progress has been made by the National Child Sexual Exploitation Group in the delivery of the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation. Progress updates were published in 2017 and 2018 and the final report on delivery and implementation of the Action Plan is due to be published in the autumn of 2019. 

A progress report on the delivery of actions from the National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People was published in spring 2019. Substantial progress in delivering against the Plan’s actions has been made by key partners including Education Scotland, Police Scotland and policy teams across the Scottish Government. 

Although online safety legislation remains reserved to the UK Government, Scottish Ministers are developing and implementing policy relating to child internet safety using their devolved responsibilities for education, policing and child protection. The Scottish Government actively participates as a standing member of the UK Council for Internet Safety to ensure Scotland’s interests are appropriately represented and considered in any proposed legislation. We are also engaging with the UK Government in the development of their Internet Safety Strategy and participating in the consultation on the Online Harms White Paper.

Police Scotland are currently in the process of expanding the External Partners Portal for Intelligence Collection (EPPIC) to all areas within public protection including child protection. EPPIC was previously used within the domestic abuse arena and was successful in capturing key intelligence provided by partners.

EPPIC is a secure and confidential electronic system, developed to enable partner agencies to share important information they receive during the course of their work. It is an information collection portal, and does not replace current incident or crime reporting methods, in particular the mechanism for child or adult referral. 

The information provided through the EPPIC portal will be dealt with as intelligence by Police Scotland with this process aimed at developing information around the threat, risk and harm posed by perpetrators and locations. By trying to capture what partners already see, hear and know it will provide invaluable opportunities to target those who pose risk and protect those at risk of harm.

"Honestly, no words can express my feelings. Everyone is so kind to me and look after me very well. I feel that the organisation is truly my family. The staff here is my brothers and my sisters, which is so valuable to me as I do not have any family members and I am alone. And when I am able to feel that you are my family, I really do not know how I can describe these special feelings. I would like to express my profound appreciation to all of you.”

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

The research commissioned by the Scottish Government on the routes into trafficking for children is being finalised and will be published in summer 2019. The research found that the Scottish response to child trafficking has been positive in its focus on the child protection aspects of identification and support, although there remain areas for development in this respect. Young people indicate the relational aspect of the Scottish Guardianship Service has been key to their recovery, and the young people appreciate the support they have received from all the agencies in Scotland. There remains tension between the child welfare and protection aspects of the work and the immigration system. A key area for attention is the recognition of exploitation of UK children. 

Looking forward: 

The Scottish Government will reinstate a stakeholder reference group to oversee delivery of the remaining actions of the National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People. The Scottish Government will also form a national advisory group to inform and develop action to address arising issues and dangers in the fast evolving landscape of online technology and to look at the impact it has on children and young people. 

The Scottish Government will consider how best to take forward the recommendations from the research on routes into trafficking for children.

The Scottish Government will analyse consultation responses to inform the development of the roles and responsibilities of the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian. Once this has been completed a public procurement process will be undertaken to implement the new statutory service.

Police Scotland will run a trial of EPPIC, which will allow a proof of concept and ensure that training being delivered is fit for purpose. Training venues have been identified and training plans and guidance documents are currently being prepared along with quality assurance and governance processes. 

The Scottish Government will continue to work with the Home Office on the proposals for the National Referral Mechanism reform, to ensure a child-centred approach is considered. 

The Scottish Guardianship Service will be taking forward a Befriending Service for unaccompanied children and young people. 

The Scottish Guardianship Service will work within the European Guardianship Network to develop and share best practice in supporting unaccompanied children. 

The network, funded by the EU Commission, will be organised by the Dutch Guardianship organisation, NIDOS, and bring together other guardianship organisations, member states and NGOs. This network will offer opportunities to share good practice and learn from other countries.

To further strengthen children’s rights in Scotland, Scottish Ministers announced, in the Programme for Government 2018/2019, a commitment to incorporating the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law. Evidence shows that there are different ways to achieve this and that there are some particular complexities in relation to the UNCRC and Scotland’s devolution settlement which require to be worked through. It will be important to develop a model that will deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and families in Scotland. Therefore, to deliver this commitment, we will consult widely in 2019 including with children, young people and families, local authorities and other public bodies across Scotland, as well as third sector partners.



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