Trafficked children lost behind ‘wall of silence’
Press Release - 17 June 2009
Trafficked children are suffering from abuse as professionals struggle to identify them, according to a new report published today (17 June) by the NSPCC and the University of Bedfordshire.
The study, Breaking the wall of silence, looked at 37 cases of trafficked children and spoke to 72 different children’s professionals in three areas of England to assess how they respond to the challenge of helping young victims of trafficking. It describes a "tangible level of confusion" among children's services staff about a definition of trafficking and how to apply it to the young people in their care.
University of Bedfordshire Professor Jenny Pearce said: “Trafficking is not just about children from abroad being brought into this country. It can include British children and young people being trafficked within the UK. Some victims are sexually exploited but other forms of abuse may be involved. Children can be victim to an overlapping combination of abuse including criminal activity, domestic servitude, benefit fraud and forced labour, stealing or begging.
“There is no typical profile for a trafficked girl or boy, or young man or woman. Even how old they seem can be misleading – many trafficked children have grown old beyond their years after experiencing abuse and maltreatment. Keeping these variables in mind is so important for practitioners to help them identify victims”
NSPCC senior researcher Dr. Patricia Hynes, who is based at the NSPCC’s centre for action on child sexual abuse Fresh Start, said: “Trafficked children are hidden behind a wall of silence. There are children who are afraid to speak out or do not see themselves as trafficked or victims. Traffickers are extremely skilled at manipulating and coercing children into silence by threatening to harm them or their families, or reporting them for deportation. On the other side, practitioners often find it difficult to identify a trafficked child when they do not know what signs to look for.”
Dr. Hynes continued: “The research shows that trafficking is a process, not a 'one-off' event. Trafficking can involve a complex mix of extreme and varied forms of abuse, which can take time to uncover fully. In some cases we examined, it took a year for a child to reveal enough about what had happened to them for the practitioner to realise this was a trafficked child.
“Child protection is more important than the immigration status of children trafficked from abroad. Many practitioners in our study felt that children trafficked from overseas did not receive the same access to services as children born in the UK. But all children are entitled to education, health and accommodation support, whatever their status.”
Professor Jenny Pearce said: "There are examples of good work out there, often in areas where a major port of entry means professionals have a lot of experience working with trafficked children. But there needs to be a consistent response, no matter where they are found.”
The study highlights the need for skilled, trained interpreters and specialist trained and supported foster carers who are aware of the potential health needs of trafficked children and of the manipulation and violence they may have suffered.
The report recommends that:
• Separated children, who arrive into the UK without their parents, are given a key worker to support them upon arrival.
• Border officials should supply leaflets which children can understand about what trafficking is and detailed information about where they can seek help
• All professionals are trained to identify and record indicators of trafficking so to help bring traffickers to justice.
• Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) should develop more effective recording and monitoring of cases to build a national picture of where children are being trafficked from, to and for what purpose.
• LSCBs should train their staff about trafficking and to establish sub-committees which focus on the safeguarding of trafficked children in their area.
NSPCC researchers and report authors Patricia Hynes and Silvie Bovarnick are based at Fresh Start, a centre of national importance in the area of child sexual abuse supported by Richard Caring through his charitable trust The Children’s Charity for the good of all children.
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Notes to editors
Breaking the wall of silence: Practitioners’ responses to trafficked children and young people, by Jenny Pearce, Patricia Hynes and Silvie Bovarnick. The report will be available to download on Wednesday 17 June from www.nspcc.org.uk/trafficking and www.beds.ac.uk.
The NSPCC’s purpose is to end cruelty to children. We seek to achieve cultural, social and political change – influencing legislation, policy, practice, attitudes and behaviours for the benefit of children and young people. For more information visit www.nspcc.org.uk
About University of Bedfordshire
The University of Bedfordshire’s vision is of a world where all are able to benefit from transformational educational experiences. We create a vibrant, multicultural learning community, enabling people to transform their lives by participating in excellent, innovative education, scholarship and research. To find out more about the University visit www.beds.ac.uk.
About NSPCC Fresh Start
NSPCC Fresh Start is a centre of national importance in the area of child sexual abuse, supported by Richard Caring through his charitable trust The Children’s Charity for the good of all children. Alongside our direct services to protect children and young people and to help them overcome this abuse, we conduct research, deliver training and provide other resources to help further learning on the subject. We also work in partnership with agencies such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and others. We aim to facilitate the development of a multi-disciplinary community of practice in relation to child sexual abuse and act as a conduit for learning from best practice. We provide a range of facilities to support your work with child sexual abuse trauma.
About The Children’s Charity for the good of all children
The Children's Charity for the good of all children exists to make grants for the benefit of children, their welfare, protection and care, and to support projects associated with tackling child abuse. The principal beneficiary of the charity this year was the NSPCC, which received funding to create and develop Fresh Start, a centre which will for the first time bring together a multitude of disciplines and resources to deal with child sex abuse and abusers.