Children’s charities, including ECPAT UK, today launched a damning report highlighting how Government policies and spending decisions have failed to prioritise children, including child victims of trafficking. 

Based on the evidence in the report, children's charities are asking the Government to put children at the centre of decision-making, including in the forthcoming Budget.

New research for the coalition of charities in the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), of which ECPAT UK is a member, indicates that Government policy means:

  • Millions of children continue to live in poverty
  • Spending on services for children and families has fallen to 2006 levels, despite increasing need
  • Many vulnerable children are no longer entitled to help with legal advice and representation costs, severely limiting their access to justice
  • An increasingly hostile environment aimed at migrants means many vulnerable children are facing more restrictive immigration policies, cutting them off from access to justice and from basic services

The report makes key recommendations with regard to child victims of trafficking. In particular, it calls for the following:

  • A reformed National Referral Mechanism for identifying trafficked and exploited children and embedded in existing child protection procedures should be introduced. This should be a multi-agency model requiring mandatory, accredited and specialist training for all social workers, police and front line professionals and rights of appeal to children
  • A non-prosecution provision in statute should be introduced to prevent victims of trafficking from being prosecuted for crimes directly connected to their trafficking situation.
  • Safe accommodation, including specialist foster care, should be made available for child victims of trafficking based on a detailed assessment of their welfare and protection needs and should be guaranteed until the age of 21
  • A durable solution for children who have been trafficked to the UK should be sought at the earliest opportunity following a formal Best Interests Determination process

The report sets out how the UK Government breaches its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), because it is not fully considering how its decisions affect children.

Children’s low status is reinforced by the lack of senior political leadership on children: there is no Cabinet-level minister or Cabinet sub-committee for children. 

The report also finds that reported child sex abuse has risen by 60% in the last four years, while arrests for child sexual abuse offences have fallen by 9% during the same time period.

Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK, said: “Every child has a right to be free from the threat of trafficking. Yet thousands of children in the UK are not being kept safe from such abuses and are exploited for sex, criminality and labour. This is not acceptable.

“It is a shameful indictment that a rich nation like the UK is unable to protect vulnerable children from such abuses. The Government must ensure it implements the recommendations in this report to protect children and bring abusers to justice. It also has a responsibility to ensure every child that is abused within its jurisdiction has access to appropriate services and remedies to help in their physical and psychological recovery, rehabilitation and social reintegration. This is a right of every child and should be respected, without discrimination."

Louise King, Co-Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England said: “Every child has a human right to a good start in life – an equal chance to do well at school, to be healthy, safe and cared for. But too many children are invisible to the Government: decisions on welfare, cuts to vital services, and children’s day-to-day treatment all threaten children’s human rights. We have made more than 170 recommendations on how the lives of children can be improved, many of which are not about spending more money, but putting children at the heart of Government decision-making. Without this, the most vulnerable children will remain invisible.”