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1..22 Trafficking & Exploitation

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See also the Tackling Trafficking Toolkit developed by London Safeguarding Children Boardand the National Crime Agency for information about the National Referral Mechanism.


This chapter was updated in March 2014; Section 10, Resources / Further Information was added.

This chapter is currently under review.


1. Scope


This procedure has been developed to address concerns about the disappearance, following arrival in this country, of vulnerable children from abroad, by:

  • Identifying and protecting those who may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm through trafficking and exploitation;
  • Preventing their disappearance from care and accommodation by disrupting any organised activity to exploit children;
  • Sharing information with a view to tracing such children who have disappeared from care and accommodation.
1.2 The procedure applies to both accompanied and unaccompanied children, including asylum seekers, for whom there are concerns about safety.

2. Port of Entry

2.1 Milton Keynes does not have a port of entry.
2.2 Immigration officers undertake the identification of children at risk of harm. Children who do not meet the immigration criteria for entry and children, who, irrespective of their immigration status are believed to be at risk of harm if they are allowed entry, are referred to Children's Social Care. Records for these children exist both within UK Visas and Immigration and with the receiving agency.

3. Children Already in this Country

3.1 Professionals should be familiar with the advice about migrant children and refer to Children's Social Care where there are concerns about such children including suspicions of trafficking concerning a particular child/ren victim, adult/s perpetrators or suspicious activity at specific addresses.

4. Referral and Initial Information Gathering

4.1 The social worker should obtain as much information as possible from the referrer, including the child's name, date of birth, address, name of carer/guardian, address if different, phone number, country of origin, home language and whether s/he speaks English, names of any siblings or other children.
4.2 The referrer must be asked to put their concerns in writing and the social worker should verify that the child is living at the address as soon as possible.
4.3 In the case of a referral from a school or education department the list of documentation provided at admission should be obtained.
4.4 A Home Office check should be completed to clarify status of the child/ren and the adult/s caring for them.

5. Action After Initial Information Gathering


On completion of initial information gathering the social worker must discuss the referral with a team/group manager to agree and plan next steps:

  • No further action if no concerns are identified;
  • Commence a Child and Family Single Assessment to to decide whether appropriate arrangements for the child have been made by her/his parents or there are grounds to accommodate the child or the child is in need of immediate protection and/or a Section 47 Enquiry should be initiated;
  • There are grounds to accommodate the child (the child is lost or abandoned, there is no person with Parental Responsibility for the child, the person who has been accommodating the child is prevented, for whatever reason, from providing suitable accommodation or care);
  • Enough information at this stage to instigate a Section 47 Enquiry;
  • Enough information at this stage to conclude the child is in need of immediate protection i.e. an Emergency Protection Order or Powers of Police Protection(in an emergency) and a Section 47 Enquiry initiated.
5.2 The social worker should advise a professional referrer of the plan.
5.3 The social worker must check all documentation held by the referrer and other relevant agencies. Documentation should include, passport, Home Office papers, birth certificate, proof of guardianship. The list is not exhaustive and all avenues should be looked into.
5.4 When assessing paperwork / documentation attention should be given to detail e.g. when was passport issued, how long is the visa for, does the picture resemble the child, is the name in the passport the same as the alleged mother / father, if not, why not, does the documentation appear original (take copies to ensure further checks can be made).

Assessment Interview

5.5 Once all possible information has been gathered, the social worker, their line manager and the police should decide whether to conduct joint interviews with the police CAIU, and if to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry.
5.6 If the family are visited, standard social work practice should be followed. The child should be seen alone, preferably in a safe environment and without carers in proximity.
5.7 In undertaking any assessment and all subsequent work with the child, a suitable interpreter must be used if required (see Interpreters, Signers & Others with Special Communication Skills Procedure). The interpreter needs to be aware if there are concerns about trafficking and cultural advice sought.
5.8 Questions should explore the household composition, parents / carers' employment, tasks / work undertaken around the house or elsewhere, length of time in this country, where s/he lived and went to school in country of origin, who cared for her/him in country of origin.

The assessment needs to focus on how and why the child arrived in the UK and should try to establish:

  • Family / household composition;
  • Parent / carer's employment;
  • Tasks / work undertaken in house and elsewhere;
  • Length of time in this country;
  • Where s/he lived and went to school previously, including in country of origin;
  • Who cared for her/him in country of origin - and subsequently;
  • If the family sent the child to the UK, or elsewhere;
  • Did the child know where they were being sent and what is her/his understanding of why they are here?
  • Was there a facilitator (someone who arranges the details in the country of origin)?
  • Did the family pay the facilitator?
  • Was the young person prepared with information to provide if intercepted at the airport?
  • Did anyone else travel with the child, and if so what happened to that person on arrival?
  • Was the child to be met at any particular airport (NB the child may have been intercepted on transit)?
  • What does the child want themselves?
  • Has the child a mobile phone or a SIM card?
  • Explore if the child knows anyone in the UK, or has phone number/s of friends / family (explain it is alright to know people and it may be in her/his interests to be reunited with a genuine family member);
  • Re-confirm why s/he came to the UK or left her/his country of origin.
5.10 The assessment also needs to focus on the child's understanding of their situation and knowledge of trafficking. They should be provided with knowledge about trafficking, that it is a fundamental abuse of human rights and the possible dangers for the child.
5.11 The adults in the family / household should be interviewed (separately if possible) on the same basis, establishing the same information, so that a comparison can then be made between the answers to ensure they match.
5.12 All documentation should be seen and checked. This includes Home Office documentation, passports, visas, utility bills, tenancy agreements, birth certificates. Particular attention should be given to the documentation presented to the school at point of admission. It is not acceptable to be told 'the passport is missing' or 'I can't find the paperwork right now'. It is extremely unlikely that a person does not know where their paperwork / official documentation is kept.
5.13 This interview should be conducted as fully and complete as possible to ensure accuracy and to avoid intrusion on the family over a longer period than is absolutely necessary.
5.14 On completion of the assessment the social worker, team/group manager, CAIU, referring agency and other professionals as appropriate should discuss and agree future action, usually at a meeting (if there are grounds to accommodate the child, take immediate action or initiate a Section 47 Enquiry these should not be delayed until a meeting is held).
5.15 Where it is found the child is not a family member and is not related to any other person in this country, consideration should be given to establishing status and assisting the child as an unaccompanied minor.
5.16 Any action regarding fraud, trafficking, deception and illegal entry to this country is the remit of the police and the Home Office. The local authority should assist in any way possible.


6. Section 47 Enquiry

6.1 Whenever a practitioner or volunteer becomes concerned that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made to Children's Social Care and the local police CAIU in accordance with procedures in Recognition & Response Procedure, Duty to Refer to Children's Services of these procedures.
6.2 If the concern is raised at a port of entry, then immigration service should without delay, contact the Children's Social Care and the CAIU for the local area serving the port of entry. If the child is already in the country, the referral must be made to the Children's Social Care and the CAIU for the area in which the child resides.

A Strategy Discussion should be held. This is a complex form of abuse and a meeting will be required to plan the enquiry as soon as possible. The meeting must;

  • Develop a strategy for making enquiries into the child's circumstances, including consideration of a video interview;
  • Develop a plan for the child's immediate protection, including the supervision and monitoring of arrangements (for child in care this will form part of the care plan);
  • Agree what information can be given about the child to any enquirers; and
  • Agree what support the child requires.

7. Children in Care

7.1 The social worker should seek a placement proportionate to the need to protect the child. This may include protection from possible abduction and in some cases require surveillance cameras in operation, monitoring of phone calls and intensive supervision. If required an escort must be organised to take the child there.
7.2 Location of the child must not be divulged to any enquirers until they have been interviewed by a social worker and their identity and relationship / connection with the child established, with the help of police and immigration services, if required.

A Care Plan should be agreed, as for all children in care, involving the child, the social worker, carers and police. This should address:

  • Explicit risk factors;
  • Completion of the Assessment if this has not already been done;
  • Supervision and monitoring arrangements;
  • Care planning meetings and Children in Care Reviews.

The Assessment of the child's needs must completed and include:

  • Establishing relevant information about the child's background;
  • Understanding the reasons the child has come to the UK (so as to understand the child's needs, not to determine her/his rights to enter the country); and
  • Assessing the child's vulnerability to the continuing influence/control of the traffickers.

Planning and actions to support the child must minimise the risk of the traffickers re-involving a child in exploitative activities. Thus:

  • Foster carers / residential workers should be have information about how to provide intensive supervision and must be vigilant about anything unusual e.g. waiting cars outside premises and phone enquiries;
  • The social worker must immediately pass to the police any information on the child (concerning risks to her/his safety or any other aspect of the law pertaining to child protection or immigration or other matters), which emerges during the placement;
  • The child's social worker must try to make contact with the child's parents in the country of origin (immigration services may be able to help), to find out the plans they have made for their child and to seek their views - the social worker must to steps to verify the relationship between the child and those thought to be her/his parent/s; contact information can be obtained via the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (0207 008 1500), the relevant Embassy or Consulate (see the London Diplomatic List, ISBN 0 11 591772 1 from the Stationery Office on 0870 600 5522 or the FCO website).
7.6 Anyone approaching the local authority and claiming to be a potential carer, friend, member of the family etc, should be investigated by the social worker, police and UK Visas and Immigration. If the team/group manager is satisfied that all agencies have completed satisfactory identification checks and risk assessments the child may transfer to their care.
7.7 The child will be subject to regular Children in Care Reviews. At the conclusion of the Section 47 Enquiry and at each review a decision is to be made as to whether s/he continues to be at risk of being trafficked and the reasons for this decision recorded.
7.8 Should it become clear the risk of trafficking is extreme and immediate, consideration must be given to commencement of legal proceedings, in conjunction with the service manager and legal advisor.
7.9 Should it become clear that the child is not at risk of trafficking, or that the risk has been reduced, the continued appropriateness of the safe placement should be considered and efforts made to identify family or friends who can appropriately take over the care of the child/young person. In order to promote stability children should not usually be moved to another placement, but their supervision reduced.

8. Issues for Professionals to Consider When Working With Trafficked & Exploited Children


Children who have been trafficked and exploited are likely to need some of the following services:

  • Appropriately trained interpreting;
  • Someone to spend time with them and build up a level of trust;
  • Counselling via child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS);
  • Independent legal advice about their rights and immigration status;
  • Their whereabouts to be kept confidential;
  • Discretion and caution to be used in tracing their families;
  • A risk assessment to be made into the danger they face if they are repatriated: trafficked and exploited children who eventually return home can suffer discrimination, particularly those who have been sexually exploited;
  • To be interviewed separately - children not speak openly until they feel comfortable;
  • Medical services (including, for victims of torture);
  • Education.
8.2 Attempting to persuade a child victim to testify against a trafficker is complicated. The child usually fears reprisal from the traffickers and/or the adults whom the child was living with in the UK if they co-operate with the police. This includes reprisals against their family in their home country.
8.3 Children, who might agree to testify, fear that they will be discredited because they were coerced into lying on their visa applications / immigration papers.

9. Missing Children at Risk of Being Trafficked

9.1 If a child, who is at risk of being trafficked, goes missing, residential staff / foster carers must immediately inform Children's Social Care the social worker, team/group manager or Emergency Social Work Team, who must contact the police control room and Immigration Service.
9.2 The police will complete a MISPER form, and notify the National Missing Persons' help-line. In all cases the police must update Children's Social Care with the progress of the investigation.
9.3 Procedures for missing children must be instituted (see Missing Child, Adult or Family Procedure).

10. Resources / Further Information

Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked; Practice Guidance, Home Office and Department for Education (2011)

On the Safe Side, Principles for the Safe Accommodation of child Victims of Trafficking, Ecpat Uk (2011)

Child Trafficking, Begging and Organised Crime, Ecpat Uk Briefing Paper (2010)

Safeguarding Trafficked Roma Children and Families, London Safeguarding Children Board (2010)

National Crime Agency – Human Trafficking

Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery (November 2017)

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