More than half of frontline workers believe the current National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the main framework for identifying and protecting victims of trafficking, needs to be revised to better protect child victims of modern slavery.

A worrying 40% of respondents said that the system never or rarely ensures an appropriate safeguarding response for children and information is always shared safely in only 11% of cases.

In a new report, entitled Time to Transform, ECPAT UK has published the results of an online survey of 229 frontline professionals working with trafficked children, including from local authorities, police, immigration services, criminal justice, health and education systems and NGOs.

Only 6% of respondents felt that there was good awareness of the NRM amongst frontline professionals who work with children. And only 4% felt decisions about identification should not be multi-agency – as is the case in the government’s recently announced changes to the system whereby Home Office officials in a new department will make identification decisions about all victims, including children.

Respondents also highlighted problems with the NRM’s structure and ways of working. More than 80% of respondents did not believe that NRM decisions were made in a suitable timeframe and only 25% believed that decision-making was currently made by the appropriate agencies.

Significantly, there was a clear call for reform amongst those surveyed. More than three-quarters of respondents felt that the system should be part of the existing child protection system, and the majority said it only sometimes ensured specialist support for those who have been trafficked. Only 7% of respondents believed that the system should remain as it currently is.

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns at ECPAT UK, said: “Recent scandals of child exploitation in the UK have highlighted how authorities have failed to respond adequately to the needs of children who have been trafficked and abused. Yet there have been no specific reforms for how the official system of identification of exploitation operates for children. The government must take these messages from the frontline very seriously as the system clearly needs urgent reform.

“Children who are victims of modern slavery require high levels of intensive support to recover from the trauma and to rebuild their lives. The shocking results of this survey show that professionals using the NRM know it needs to change in order to be effective both in terms of identifying child victims but also in delivering appropriate specialist care that meets their needs.”

ECPAT UK is campaigning for the NRM for children to be reformed to work better with existing child protection processes and for it to provide guaranteed specialist support to its young victims. Around 70,000 people in total have supported the campaign so far; please add your name and help us fight for the rights of child victims of modern slavery in the UK.

ENDS

Press contacts

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK: 020 7607 2136, [email protected]

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns, ECPAT UK: 07890 120834 [email protected]