Last week, Dame Sara Thornton’s third and final annual report as the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner was laid before parliament. ECPAT UK welcomes the report and thanks the Commissioner and her office for all their work over the past three years, especially the focus on child victims and their rights to protection and care.

As outlined in the report, Dame Sara’s tenure as the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner saw the development of four priorities: improving victim care and support; supporting law enforcement and prosecution; focusing on prevention; and getting value from research and innovation. We welcome the report’s references to work to ensure child victims are protected and receive the support they need to recover, and we agree with the assessment that Dame Sara has acted with independence, sought to rely on evidence and data and listened to diverse perspectives throughout her tenure.

Dame Sara’s focus on evidence-based improvement in policy and practice has been key, and her leadership has ensured follow through on policy recommendations that are essential to the protection of children. Over the past year, we were very pleased to have worked with the Commissioner’s office on our 2021 Snapshot report, which remains the only periodic overview of the issues affecting children at risk of exploitation and child trafficking survivors in the UK.

The Commissioner’s annual report also highlights:

  • Significant developments in relation to the pilot devolving National Referral Mechanism decision-making for children to local safeguarding partners following our joint review of what works in multi-agency decision making
  • The conference at Cumberland Lodge focused on practitioner responses to child trafficking, and the subsequent report which involved young people with lived experience from ECPAT UK’s Youth Advisory Board.

All of this has contributed to understanding and helped shape policy and practice discourse, ensuring the rights, needs and voices of children are heard. We are pleased that Dame Sara has consistently raised concerns and spoken out about government measures, including the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which will further damage the lives of child victims.

ECPAT UK thanks the Commissioner for her collaborative and, tenacious approach, and we wish Dame Sara all the very best in her next endeavour.

You can read the Commissioner’s final annual report (2021-22) here.