The UK should improve its response to child trafficking by strengthening specialist support systems, the US State Department has said.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2017, published by the US State Department, has called on the UK to deliver specialised mandatory training to professionals working with children who have been trafficked and provide more funding and access to specialised services for trafficking victims across the UK.

Trafficking referrals to the National Referral Mechanism have increased by 17 percent in the reporting period, suggesting improved efforts to identify and implement the Modern Slavery Act.

However, the report has said the UK Government fails to “consistently assist all those requiring help, and the quality of care varied between jurisdictions in the UK”.

The annual TIP Report provides a global overview of the nature and scope of trafficking in persons and the range of anti-trafficking measures and initiatives employed by governments in 188 countries. ECPAT UK submits written and oral evidence each year to address issues faced by children in the UK and those abused by British nationals abroad.

The report criticises the lack of mandatory training for social workers and the UK Government’s failure to expand the Independent Child Trafficking Advocates scheme.

The recommendations in the report provide further evidence for ECPAT UK campaign calls for mandatory specialised safeguarding training for frontline practitioners and specialist support services, including safe accommodation, for trafficked children.

For over a decade, ECPAT UK has consistently campaigned for specialised support for child victims of trafficking across all UK jurisdictions, regardless of their immigration status, to bring the UK’s protection systems in line with international law.

ECPAT UK has called into question the efficacy of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for identifying and supporting child victims of modern slavery, trafficking and exploitation (including those trafficked internally in the UK), and will shortly be launching a campaign calling for specialised support for trafficked children.

The report also highlights that even though the Modern Slavery Act requires that victims receive a determination on their status under the NRM within 45 days, “in many cases the government did not meet this deadline leaving some potential victims in limbo”.

Ryan Mahan, ECPAT UK, said: “Despite pockets of improved practice, the UK continues to fail to provide robust support for trafficked children, leaving already vulnerable children further at risk of going missing and re-trafficking. The time for words is over; we need concerted and sustained action if we are going to make good on our promise to protect the rights of abused children in this country.”