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Trafficked children: “Staff lack skills, not compassion”

As the Council of Europe’s GRETA (Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings) today releases a report on trafficked children, BASW is supporting GRETA’s call for better services and more specialist trained staff.

The report is the first evaluation of the UK’s implementation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which the UK signed up to in 2007.

While acknowledging some progress, such as the creation of the UK Human Trafficking Centre and a National Referral Mechanism for identifying and assisting victims, as well as the adoption of a four-year Strategy on Human Trafficking covering the period 2011-2015, the report estimates that hundreds of children are victims of trafficking in the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour, yet only 56 people were convicted of human trafficking in 2009, and just 29 the following year.

The report states that “Significant numbers” of trafficked children go missing from care and often end up going back to their abusers, and calls for more safe accommodation, specialist training for care staff and foster carers.

Commenting on the report’s release, BASW professional officer Sue Kent said:

“Children’s homes are often staffed with dedicated workers, but often these workers, while not lacking compassion, have only a basic knowledge of care, and need targeted training to help them work with vulnerable young people.

“Social workers try to assess the circumstances of young people and provide them with support, but the care system’s “one size fits all” attitude to children has to change.

“Children who have been trafficked are placed in generic services, rather than being offered the specialist help and support they desperately need.

“As the cuts bite harder into local authority budgets, fewer resources are being allocated to these vital areas of work, and social workers struggle to help young people deemed to be at significant risk of continued abuse.

“Members of BASW’s Child Sexual Exploitation Practice Group recently described the difficulties of identification and support for young people who are subject to exploitation, some of whom have been trafficked.

“Our system is failing these children, and BASW supports the Council of Europe’s Greta (Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings) call for action to help the increasing number of trafficked children.”