Child trafficking Helping children who’ve been trafficked

Modern slavery and child trafficking are child abuse. Children need to be protected and for professionals to work together to support them. Children who've been trafficked may have extremely complex needs. By working together, professionals can help protect and support vulnerable children.

Multi-agency working

Working together is essential to help children get the support they need. Multi-agency working helps provide a timely and appropriate response to children who may have multiple and complex needs. It is essential that the police, local authority and immigration services share information and work together closely together in order to protect the child and prosecute the traffickers. 

If you're worried that a child may have been trafficked, child protection procedures need to be followed.

  • If a child is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.
  • Make a referral to the local authority children's services where the child is living.
  • Convene a multi-agency strategy meeting.
  • Carry out a multi-agency child protection investigation to assess the risk to the child and find out whether they have suffered significant harm. The investigation is likely to need cross-border working with agencies in different countries. Our Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) may be able to assist with this.
  • If the child needs to be accomodated by the local authority, a care order may be needed from the Family Court.
  • Make a referral to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for the child to be formally identified as a victim of trafficking.

Supporting a child who has been trafficked

When a child has been identified as a victim of trafficking they need to be appropriately protected and supported. When supporting a child you should: 

  • offer reassurance when speaking to the child. Explain in a child-friendly manner:
    • what help you can offer
    • what you can and can't do
    • roles and responsibilities of different agencies
  • apply for immediate emergency protection if the child is at further risk
  • find a safe place for the child to live, in either foster care, a children's home or, if necessary, secure accommodation
  • acknowledge a child's religious, spiritual or cultural belief as this will help to gain their trust
  • record all details for the child and any accompanying adults. Include names and addresses of relatives overseas in order to make necessary checks. Do not raise your trafficking concerns directly with any accompanying adults as this could put the child at further risk
  • liaise with relevant agencies to establish the identity of adults in the child's life. For example, you can make checks with the Department for Work and Pensions to see who is claiming benefits for the child
  • refer to guidance for child traffickingchild sexual exploitation and children missing from local authority care
  • consider using police powers of protection to either remove a child to a safe place or prevent the child's removal from a safe place, such as a hospital
  • hold a child protection strategy meeting involving children's services, police, education, health and immigration
  • connect with agencies across borders and in other countries. This should include the child's country of origin and any others that you know they have passed through before coming to the UK
  • plan for the strong possibility that, if placed in local authority care, the child may go missing. Ensure you have details that can be quickly circulated which highlight that a vulnerable child at risk of further abuse is missing
  • carry out a legally compliant age assessment if there is any doubt about the child's age
  • ensure the child's immigration status is legalised. You may need to speak to an immigration solicitor. It is illegal to give immigration advice. Instead the child should have access to independent immigration advice
  • use a qualified, approved interpreter with experience of working with children and who speaks the correct language or dialect. Do not use use family members, friends or members of the public as interpreters
  • be aware that you mustn't prioritise immigration status over child protection concerns. For example, do not assume that the child may not be entitled to certain services because they may have no legal status in the UK
  • keep informed of guidance for practitioners in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on how best to safeguard and support children who may have been trafficked.

Advice leaflets for children, young people and professionals

Our Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) has produced a series of leaflets for professionals working in differents sectors:

They've also developed 3 booklets specifically for the ICARUS (Improving Coordination and Accountability towards Romanian Unaccompanied minors’ Safety) project. We are the UK partner of this European Commission-funded project to protect vulnerable children from Romania.

Being moved to the UK from another country can be confusing for children and young people. Our booklets help children understand their experiences and rights in the UK. It explains terms like ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘trafficking’ and introduces the different people, places and processes that they might come across.

There are 2 booklets for children:

We have also produced a booklet of advice for professionals who are working to safeguard children who have been moved across borders from Romania to the UK. It covers how to respond to concerns that a child has been trafficked and what to consider when working with a child from Romania such as which agencies to contact.

How Childline can help

We understand how difficult it is for children to talk about child trafficking. Whether it's happening now or happened in the past, Childline can be contacted 24/7.

Calls to 0800 1111 are free and confidential. Children can also contact Childline online.

More resources and information

Resources on child trafficking

Browse our resources for practitioners working with children who have been trafficked.

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Legislation, policy and guidance

Key legislation, policy and guidance for the UK and internationally about child trafficking and modern slavery.

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Facts and statistics

Read the lasts facts and statistics about child trafficking and modern slavery.

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Research and resources

Read our service evaluations, research reports, briefings and leaflets about child trafficking and modern slavery.

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