Thursday, 17th September 2020

In her annual report laid before Parliament today, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton, has echoed ECPAT UK’s call for  Independent Child Trafficking Guardians to be immediately rolled out nationally and reaffirmed her support for localised decision making power to determine individuals’ official status as victims of trafficking at a time when more children than adults have been identified as potential victims for the first time.

Last month, the Commissioner and ECPAT UK released a joint review of multi-agency decision making models to inform a pilot of local decision making within the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK’s system for identifying victims of trafficking.

Currently, when a professional suspects a child is a victim of trafficking, they must refer the child’s case to the centralised decision makers in the NRM run by the Home Office. Our review found multi-agency responses embedded within local safeguarding structures would be more effective to ensure that child victims of trafficking are not only identified but also receive the protection, care and support they need within a safeguarding framework.

The Commissioner’s calls to improve the prevention of trafficking, identification of victims and the support they receive are timely, with the figures released today showing more children than adults identified as potential victims for the first time ever the urgency of these reforms for the safety of child victims is greater than ever.

The quarterly NRM figures for April to June 2020 highlight the impact of the pandemic and government response on the most vulnerable children and young people – including victims of trafficking and others at high risk of further abuse and exploitation – who have been disproportionately affected by deepening inequalities and reduced care and support.

Patricia Durr, Chief Executive of ECPAT UK, said

‘We welcome the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s call for the full roll out of statutory guardianship and her fulsome commitment to holding the Home Office to account for ensuring that every child victim of trafficking has an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian. We share Dame Sara’s frustration that despite a plethora of reports and evidence of efficacy and quality, and five years since the Modern Slavery Act established this provision in law, child victims are still being denied what we know they need and are entitled to.

Today’s NRM statistics are alarming and show the deep impact of Covid-19 on children and young people. This is a call to urgent action to shore up more and better protection for trafficked and exploited children and young people before the second wave of Covid-19 hits hard.

Trafficked children and young people are among the most vulnerable and at risk of further abuse, going missing and being re-trafficked; leaving them further traumatised and let down by the systems that are meant to support them. NRM decisions have little relation to the on the ground protection and care that children need, which is why working together at the local level to safeguard them, promote their welfare and wellbeing, help them to thrive and have stable futures is what is needed most.' 


Press contact
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected], 07402 113 985