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.

Strategy review process and responses

Review process

Section 36(4) of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 states: "Before preparing or reviewing the strategy, the Scottish Ministers must consult such persons as they consider likely to have an interest in the strategy."

Over a period of six months the Scottish Government has undertaken an extensive programme of engagement to seek the views of a wide range of stakeholders on how effective implementation of the Strategy has been and whether changes are needed either to the Strategy itself or to the approach to implementation.

The engagement process was formally launched on 18 October 2019, Anti-Trafficking Day, with a full-day Stakeholder Forum. The event opened with a keynote speech from Ash Denham MSP, Minister for Community Safety. As well as hearing updates on implementation and external perspectives on the victim support and enforcement side, attendees were asked to participate in four roundtable discussion sessions, focused on child trafficking and each of the three Action Areas in the Strategy. At each session, they were asked to consider three questions:

  • What had been done well in implementing the Strategy?
  • What more should have been done?
  • How should the outcomes and approach in the Strategy change?

A full report of the 18 October 2019 Stakeholder Forum discussions is available online.[33]

A detailed online survey, open to all with an interest, was available between 18 October and 31 December 2019, and received 246 responses. More detail on the survey is included in the section below, and a full analysis report of the survey is available online.[34]

A meeting of the Strategic Oversight Group was held on 5 November to discuss the first stages of the review and agree an approach going forward.

A further full-day session was held on 6 December, this time for members of the three Action Area groups and the Child Trafficking Strategy Group, inviting them to reflect on what progress has been made in implementing the Strategy, what changes might be needed in a new Strategy, and any changes the Scottish Government and partners should make in a collective approach on human trafficking. A report on discussions at the 6 December joint Action Area group session is available online.[35]

The Scottish Government has also undertaken detailed one-to-one meetings with key partners including the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Migrant Help, Police Scotland, the Lord Advocate, and the Minister for Children and Young People.

The review has also been informed by engagement with victims and survivors. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice had a private meeting with a small group of survivors at Parliament to discuss their experiences and what action or intervention might have made a difference for them. Further engagement with victims and survivors had been planned, including a visit by the Cabinet Secretary to The Anchor psychological trauma service and engagement through Aberlour and the Scottish Guardianship Service to capture the views of child victims. Unfortunately, these plans had to be cancelled following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with public health advice and to protect the health and wellbeing of participants.

Online survey

The survey was split into two sections. The first contained general questions about the approach to trafficking and exploitation in Scotland which were intended for all respondents. The second section contained more detailed questions likely to be of more interest to those working in areas related to trafficking, or who have a strong interest in the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. However all questions were open to all and all were optional.

246 responses were received, ranging from key partners closely involved in delivering the Strategy to anonymous individuals.

The analysis distinguishes between responses from individuals (whether anonymous or not) and those that self-identified as coming from a member of a group or organisation.

65 of the responses came from groups, and this included local government, NHS, Police Scotland, other areas in the Scottish Government, universities and NGOs.

181 of the responses came from individuals, and 95% of these were anonymous.

Survey responses

Most respondents were aware of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy (particularly those from groups or organisations), and just over half felt that specific changes in Scotland or beyond should be reflected in a new Strategy (notably increasing numbers of victims being identified and the impact of Brexit).

There seemed to be significant uncertainty around terminology like modern slavery and human trafficking and exploitation, but generally people agreed that a wide range of bodies should be working together to tackle these issues.

In general respondents agreed with the vision of the Strategy – though some felt that "eliminating" human trafficking was an unrealistic goal – and with the high level aims of the three Action Areas, though with some suggestions for amendments. In particular there were suggestions that "disrupt[ing]" the activity of perpetrators under Action Area 2 is not strong enough, and that Action Area 3 could better reflect the range of prevention work that is needed. Child trafficking was identified as an area that is as important as the three Action Areas.

On the nine general outcomes set out under the Action Areas, there was majority agreement for each one, though for several there were suggestions for how they could be amended. Some of the wording of these outcomes was confusing or ambiguous to some respondents, and two of the outcomes might put the onus too much on victims rather than on support services ("Victims are aware of support and trust it enough to ask for help" and "People at most risk get help to increase their resilience against trafficking"). There were questions about whether those outcomes that refer to awareness should go further and refer to people acting on that awareness.

In respect of child trafficking, respondents were clear that this should be a strong focus for activity under the Strategy and that it requires a distinct approach. However, views were mixed on whether this would be best done by making it a fourth Action Area or by retaining the current structure.

On reporting of implementation, most respondents felt this should continue to be annual.

When asked about equality and barriers to support, respondents were broadly evenly split on whether the current approach in the Strategy did enough to address particular impacts on female victims, and on other minority groups. The most common barriers identified were language and cultural issues.

Stakeholder Forum (18 October 2019) discussion key themes

The full report of the 18 October Stakeholder Forum is available online.[36] Below is a summary of key discussion points.

  • Several areas were highlighted as areas where good progress had been made, but there remained more to do to build on this and increase consistency across the country. This included: raising public awareness, partnership working, information sharing, training, involving the voice of victims and survivors, embedding Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements.
  • On training, in-person is better than e-learning, the third sector was highlighted particularly as needing training, and there were several calls for better training for those using the NRM process.
  • An increased focus on longer term outcomes is needed, but this is challenging to achieve.
  • On the outcomes in the Strategy, these need to be clear, dynamic and achievable, and could be improved in some instances, but there are risks to changing the goals at this stage when a lot of activity is just getting going.
  • Child trafficking could potentially be better integrated with the Action Areas in the Strategy.
  • Resources and capacity were raised in a number of contexts, particularly in the context of increasing referrals.
  • More work is needed on child criminal exploitation, including the practice sometimes called county lines, and as part of this links to the drugs strategy and a public health approach should be strengthened.
  • More focus on UK victims and internal trafficking is needed.
  • There should be work in schools and universities to build awareness and understanding.
  • More engagement could be undertaken with faith groups, homelessness support.
  • Access to and training for interpreters is a key issue, use of telephone interpreting is unhelpful, and training on how to work with interpreters would be helpful.
  • Psychological support is readily available to adult but not child victims.
  • There were calls for a stronger gendered approach to sexual exploitation and links to gender-based violence and inequality – but also an acknowledgement that most victims identified are now adult males and more work could be needed in this area.
  • The experiences of victims in court was highlighted, with more support needed around giving evidence, and also better coordination and planning around the risks of victims being unable to give evidence. There was a call for more consideration of victimless prosecutions.
  • There was scepticism that new offences had led to significantly more prosecutions, and calls for more work to embed and promote use of TEPOs and TEROs.
  • There should be analysis and reporting on the implementation and impact of duty to notify.
  • More should be done to explore international links.
  • We should look to attack the economic drivers of trafficking and consider the demand that leads to it, including prostitution and cheap goods.
  • Public awareness activity would benefit from further use of specific case studies including locally relevant cases, and involving local authorities.
  • There is scope for closer involvement of COPFS, both in terms of joint work operationally, and involvement at these sorts of events.

Joint Action Area group session (6 December 2019) key themes

The full report on the Joint Action Area group session is available online[37] but some key points from discussions for each Action Area are set out briefly below.

Action Area 1 (Identify victims and support then to safety and recovery):

  • Structure, membership & purpose of the group were broadly right, but meetings should be more directive and action-focused, and shortlife taskforces should be established to drive forward specific projects.
  • There has been some good activity on training and awareness raising for professionals but awareness is still too low and the approach to training should be more strategic.
  • There are groups of victims who are potentially being overlooked or not identified, particularly UK nationals, and more could be done to address risks to the homeless population.
  • More could be done to make use of the voice and experiences of trafficking survivors, though this should only be done where it is in their best interests.
  • Reporting on the Strategy may be too numbers-focused and lengthy: there needs to be consideration of what and who the annual progress reports are for.
  • There should be a greater focus on medium to long term outcomes for victims.
  • Fundamental changes to the Strategy would not be helpful but tweaking it to better reflect impacts on women and children could be a good idea.

Action Area 2 (Identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity):

  • The current structure and membership of the Action Area 2 group is quite broad and the focus on operational issues can leave less time for strategic work. This could be reconsidered.
  • The system seems not to be effectively identifying UK victims of trafficking in Scotland.
  • The way annual reports present measures of progress does not effectively reflect the work being done and its positive impact.
  • It would be helpful to explore how a stronger approach to trafficking as serious organised crime could improve disruption.
  • Feeding in the views of victims and survivors in a sensitive manner is crucial.
  • Action Area 2 should co-ordinate with the Child Trafficking Strategy Group on specific work on child criminal exploitation.

Action Area 3 (Address the conditions that foster trafficking and exploitation):

  • The high level goals and outcomes are broadly right – changing at this stage could risk losing focus.
  • Lots of work has been done on the first two outcomes, but the third (people at most risk get help to increase their resilience against trafficking) is difficult.
  • Some felt the current approach to annual reports is too detailed and not worth the work involved; others felt it was important to be capturing and reporting on the range of work being done.
  • The current measures reported on don't always make it clear what the benefits are – we should think about how to capture less tangible outcomes.
  • The Corporate Group needs to be reinvigorated/relaunched, with stronger links to high profile businesses, named champions and sponsors.
  • The Action Area 3 group needs to be more task and target focused, initiating short life working groups on specific projects, working across Action Area groups where this makes sense. The business guidance was a good example of this approach.

Child Trafficking Strategy Group:

  • There were varying views on whether the Child Trafficking Strategy Group should remain as it is or become a separate Action Area.
  • There was agreement that there needs to be a greater focus on how issues relating to children and young people are being shared and considered across the other Action Areas.
  • The Child Trafficking Strategy Group needs to increase focus on deliverable actions and use the meeting space to drive these forward rather than as a forum for updates.
  • Awareness raising has been positive but concern remains around who is being missed out. A greater focus on UK nationals is required and more detailed assessment of trends in NRM data.
  • A general theme of the discussion was the need to look at the continuity of support as child victims transition into adulthood and the long term recovery of (child) victims.
  • There was agreement that wider work was required to prevent re-trafficking and reduce the risk of re-trafficking for young people.
  • There was consensus that work was required to help tackle barriers to access good quality interpretation services, legal advice and further education.
  • There was discussion around the child trafficking strand potentially being broadened to include other forms of exploitation (such as child criminal exploitation or child sexual exploitation) but it was agreed that any change would need to ensure that trafficking was not lost in the wider work.



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