Trafficking and exploitation strategy: third annual progress report

Annual progress report and review of the trafficking and exploitation strategy and a report setting out implementation progress in 2019 to 2020.

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:

  • 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 second annual progress report identified a number of areas of work that the Child Trafficking Strategy Group (CTSG) would continue to deliver and take forward. This included:

  • The Scottish Government would run a public consultation on Independent Child Trafficking Guardians to inform the development of the roles and responsibilities of this service and start the procurement process to implement the new statutory service.
  • The Child Trafficking Strategy Group would consider how best to take forward the recommendations from the research on child trafficking by the University of Stirling to get a better understanding of the routes into trafficking for children in Scotland.
  • Police Scotland would work on expanding the Partners Intelligence Toolkit (previously known as External Partners Portal for Intelligence Collection) and operate a trial.
  • The Scottish Government would continue to work with the Home Office on the proposals for National Referral Mechanism reform, to ensure a child-centred approach is considered.
  • The Scottish Guardianship Service would take forward a Befriending Service for unaccompanied children and young people.
  • The Scottish Government would 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.
  • To further strengthen children's rights in Scotland, the Scottish Government would take forward work to incorporate the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law.

In this chapter, an update will be provided on how the above actions and the other work streams of the Child Trafficking Strategy Group have been taken forward in the last year to meet the outcomes of the three other Action Areas.

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

A consultation[25] seeking views on the role, functions and responsibilities of an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG) was launched in August 2019 and ran for a period of 12 weeks. The consultation was split into two themes with part one considering the technical aspects of the role of the Guardian as set out in Section 11(7) of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and part two considering the broader functions of the guardian's role. The responses to the consultation[26] were published in December 2019 and analysis of the responses were published in May 2020.[27]

We will draft a specification and invitation to tender informed by the consultation responses during summer 2020 and will invite applications from interested parties to manage the service. It is anticipated that the new service will be implemented in 2021.

As detailed in Section 1, the Scottish Guardianship Service, JustRight Scotland and TARA have co-delivered training across Scotland, raising awareness of human trafficking and exploitation to frontline public sector staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Borders and Aberdeen. The training included practical information on the Lord Advocate's instructions to key frontline services working with child victims of trafficking and children involved in offending behaviour.

The Scottish Government has been working with COSLA and JustRight Scotland to deliver training to support the implementation of the updated age assessment: practice guidance.[28]

The training is split over two days with the first day focusing on the legal aspects of age assessments, and the second day (which follows one week after the legal training) focusing on the practical implementation of the updated age assessment guidance from a social work perspective. The training sessions are targeted at frontline practitioners and first-line managers who will be conducting the age assessments. The first session took place in March 2020 and the remaining sessions will be delivered online over the coming months.

The Scottish Government, alongside key stakeholders, has been working with the Home Office on their proposals for making the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) more child-friendly. The Home Office attended the Child Trafficking Strategy Group meeting in October 2019 and led a session on their proposals for child-friendly NRM reforms. The Scottish Government is continuing to work with the Home Office to develop their proposals. As mentioned in the Action Area 1 chapter, work is ongoing to develop a toolkit which will assist those completing NRM referrals for children and adults.

To help ensure a child-centred approach is taken with child victims of trafficking, the Scottish Guardianship Service has been working with legal representatives and other partners to improve the quality of asylum and trafficking statements made by young people. The Scottish Guardianship Service has also been working with the Home Office to encourage a more sensitive and trauma-informed approach to dealing with cases where a child has been a victim of trafficking. The Guardianship Service has supported the Home Office to move interviews to a familiar and safe environment in the Guardianship office where there is a separate breakout space, access to refreshments, a bright friendly interview room and no security measures to go through. The interviews are now more focused and shorter, with questions limited to areas that require more clarity, to avoid the child having to retell their story.

JustRight Scotland, in collaboration with the Scottish Guardianship Service, have been co-delivering a child-centred legal service. Between September 2017 and September 2019 the collaboration assisted 59 children from 16 local authorities with 120 legal matters, ranging from claims for international protection to Judicial Reviews in the Court of Session. An important development has been both the increase in children receiving the service but also the wider geographical reach across Scotland.

Last year, the Scottish Guardianship Service, in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's Glasgow Psychological Trauma Service, The Anchor, were funded by Comic Relief for the next three years to deliver resilience building groups. This mental health project is called the Allies and the aim of the groups is to provide early intervention support for asylum seeking and trafficked young men. Over the course of 2019, three groups were successfully run. The groups aim to strengthen mental health through building resilience to help young men confront and cope with life's challenges; and to maintain their wellbeing in the face of adversity.

Further to this, the Scottish Guardianship Service launched a befriending service for separated and trafficked children, to help mitigate the loneliness, isolation and unfamiliarity that many children who have been victims of trafficking experience. The service matches unaccompanied children and young people individually with a trained volunteer Befriender. The Befriender's role is to help the young person build a positive trusting relationship; and support them to integrate and feel part of their local communities. Over the last year, 38 matches were made between young people and Befrienders.

The Scottish Government continues to take forward work on the incorporation of the UNCRC. A consultation[29] on how best to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law was held from May to September 2019. Following the consultation, the Deputy First Minister made a statement to Parliament announcing that the Scottish Government will take a maximalist approach to incorporation of the UNCRC. The consultation analysis report[30] was published in November 2019. A Bill will be introduced later this year to make provisions for the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scottish domestic law.

"On the plane I was never left alone even if I went to the toilet."

Action Area 2: Identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity

The Evaluation Report[31] for the National Child Sexual Exploitation & Child Trafficking Workshops, which took place between January and March 2019, was published in summer 2019. The workshops were jointly delivered by members of the National Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Trafficking Strategy Groups with the aim of ensuring that connections were being made between child sexual exploitation (CSE) and child trafficking. The evaluation highlighted gaps in practitioners' knowledge on the links between CSE and child trafficking. The Child Trafficking Strategy Group is considering how to address these gaps and further training will be delivered later this year.

Police Scotland are continuing to develop the Partners Intelligence Toolkit, 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. The first pilot commenced in February 2020 in Highlands and Islands; and a second pilot area has been identified in Aberdeen with plans for the pilot to commence in summer this year.

To help improve child protection processes, Police Scotland published a Standard Operating Procedure for Inter Agency Referral Discussions in September 2019 and have been continuing to work in partnership with Social Work Scotland to develop the new Joint Investigative Interview (JII) Training.

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. This year, to raise awareness and re-frame thinking around child criminal exploitation, the Divert Theme developed and delivered a Child Criminal Exploitation and Serious Organised Crime Conference. This took place on 28 November 2019 in Glasgow. Further details on the conference including the programme and presentation slides can be accessed on the website of the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice.[32]

A report highlighting the work delivered over the last four years by the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation is due to be published this year. The Action Plan brought together a range of organisations, professionals and invested parties, in taking forward an ambitious set of actions to improve the child protection landscape and create a hostile place for perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.

The National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People brings together the wealth of work delivered through Education Scotland, Police Scotland and stakeholders funded through the Scottish Government's Cyber Resilience Learning and Skills Action Plan, Scotland's Digital Strategy and Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy, to ensure that children and young people are supported to be resilient and confident in the digital world.

Although online safety legislation remains reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government continues to participate as a member of the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) Executive Board; and to engage in UK-wide discussions with social media companies and technology firms, focusing on their responsibilities to society and improving online safety. As a member of UKCIS, the Scottish Government also continues to work with the UK Government in its development of its proposals for the regulation of online services provided in the UK, to tackle online harms.

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

Since January 2020, JustRight Scotland has been collating data on child victims of trafficking, for the UK-wide Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, to increase the understanding of trafficking across the UK and identify key issues and gaps which require legal intervention.

The research on child trafficking, as mentioned in the second annual progress report, has taken longer to finalise than expected and we will be publishing the final report in summer 2020. The Scottish Government commissioned the University of Stirling to undertake the research to get a better understanding of the routes into trafficking for children in Scotland. In general, 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. Further to this the research identified areas of work to improve support for child victims of trafficking and highlighted problems with current practice in Scotland.

Looking forward

The Child Trafficking Strategy Group acknowledges that more work is required to address barriers to unaccompanied and trafficked children accessing good quality interpretation services, legal advice and further education, and these will be considered going forward. In addition, to address the increase in trafficking of children who are UK nationals and are victims of Child Criminal Exploitation, it is acknowledged that enhanced engagement is needed with Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy.

The Child Trafficking Strategy Group will also consider the recommendations from the research commissioned by the Scottish Government on the routes into trafficking for children; as well as taking forward workshops to raise awareness on trafficking and exploitation with practitioners, once public health guidance allows. The Scottish Government will also continue to work with COSLA and JustRight Scotland to deliver training on the implementation of the revised age assessment guidance.

Work will continue in the delivery of Scotland's National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People with a particular focus on deterring perpetrators from committing abuse online. This includes engagement with the UK Government on the development of a range of legislative and non-legislative measures to tackle online harms, as well as participation as an executive board member of the UK Council for Internet Safety and its respective subgroups, to engage in UK-wide discussions with social media companies and technology firms, focusing on their responsibilities to society and improving online safety.

We will continue to take action to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland through Scottish Government funding to the third sector, to ensure that more children and young people at risk of or affected by sexual exploitation and other forms of sexual abuse are identified early and receive appropriate support. Action to tackle child sexual exploitation will also continue through various other work streams including the Equally Safe strategy, the revised Serious Organised Crime Strategy, the National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland, the Race Equality Action Plan, the National Sexual Violence Prevention Programme, Education Scotland Safeguarding Programmes, and the work of Scotland's Chief Medical Officer's Taskforce for the improvement of services for adults and children who have experienced rape and sexual assault.

The Scottish Government will be taking forward the tender and procurement of the new Independent Child Trafficking Guardians service, with the aim for the new service to be implemented in 2021. The Scottish Government will also continue to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law.



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