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4.4.4 Safeguarding Children from Trafficking and Modern Slavery


In November 2017, a new Section 18, Additional Information and Guidance was added, and links to national guidance and information were added/updated.


1. Introduction
2. Key Definitions
3. Principles
4. Why do People Traffic Children?
5. Signs and Indicators
6. Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Trafficked Children
  6.1 Action by Professionals and Agencies
  6.2 Age Assessments
7. Why is Trafficking Possible?
8. How are Children Recruited and Controlled?
9. How are Children Brought to the UK?
  9.1 Accompanied Children
  9.2 Unaccompanied Children
10. Internal Trafficking
11. The Impact of Trafficking on Children's Health and Welfare
  11.1 Physical Abuse
  11.2 Emotional and Psychological Abuse
  11.3 Sexual Abuse
  11.4 Neglect
12. Obstacles to Child Disclosing Trafficking
13. National Referral Mechanism
14. Matters to Consider when Working with Trafficked Children
15. Potential Prosecution of Traffickers
  15.1 Some Considerations when Deciding to Prosecute
  15.2 Supporting Child Witnesses
16. Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin
17. Particularly Vulnerable Groups of Children
  17.1 Inter-Country Adoption
  17.2 Private Fostering
  17.3 Trafficked Children who are Looked After
  17.4 Looked After Trafficked Children who go Missing
18. Additional Information and Guidance
  18.1 Additional National Information and Guidance
  18.2 Additional Local Information and Guidance
  Appendix 1: AFRUCA Anti-Trafficking Programme Information Leaflet: Psychotherapy for Trafficked Survivors
  Appendix 2: AFRUCA Anti-Trafficking Programme Therapeutic Services Referral Form

1. Introduction

Trafficked children are at increased risk of Significant Harm because they are largely invisible to the professionals and volunteers who would be in a position to assist them. The adults who traffic them take trouble to ensure that the children do not come to the attention of the authorities, or disappear from contact with statutory services soon after arrival in the UK or in a new area within the UK.

This guidance is supported by the Manchester Safeguarding Children Board's Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People. That toolkit includes a joint assessment tool and referral form to assist professionals in both assessing the needs of the child and the continuing risks that they may face, and referring their case to the competent authority The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will fulfil this role for asylum cases and the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) for all other cases.

Where necessary, the UKHTC will assist in regularising the child's immigration status, in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking and recording their case within the central UK database on victims of trafficking.

In all cases where there is a concern that a child has been trafficked into the UK or within the UK, Local Authorities, Police and other first responders (see Section 13, National Referral Mechanism for further details) have a duty to refer the child into the National Referral Mechanism through UKHTC.

Local Authorities have a duty to assess and determine the relevant support required for the child which may include the child becoming a Looked After Child.

If any other persons/agency has concerns of suspected child trafficking they should contact the police on 999 and the Local Children Services department immediately.

For additional guidance see Section 18, Additional Information and Guidance.

2. Key Definitions

The term "migrant child" is used generically to refer to any child who enters the UK from abroad, regardless of their circumstances.

An "unaccompanied asylum seeking child" (UASC) is an asylum-seeking child under the age of 18 who is not living with their parent, relative or guardian in the UK. In most cases, UASC will be referred to local authorities by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) shortly after they arrive in the UK.

"Child trafficking": Human trafficking is defined by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a process that is a combination of three basic components:

  • Movement (including within the UK);
  • Control, through harm / threat of harm or fraud;
  • For the purpose of exploitation.

The Palermo Protocol establishes children as a special case for whom there are only two components - movement and exploitation. Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim - whether or not (s)he has been deceived, because it is not considered possible for children to give informed consent.

A child may be trafficked without crossing any national borders, e.g. only within the UK.

A child may be trafficked between a number of countries in the EEA or globally, prior to being trafficked into/within the UK. The child may have entered the UK illegally or legally (i.e. with immigration documents). The intention to exploit the child underpins the entire process.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidates current offences of trafficking and slavery and details the different forms of exploitation that a victim of trafficking may be forced into;

The exploitation can take place in a number of ways including:

  • Sexual Exploitation;
  • Labour Exploitation;
  • Criminal Exploitation;
  • Domestic Servitude;
  • Organ Harvesting.

More detail on this is below in Section 4, Why do People Traffic Children?

3. Principles

The following principles should be adopted by all agencies in relation to identifying and responding to children (and unborn children) at risk of or having been trafficked:

  • Trafficking causes Significant Harm to children in both the short and long term; it constitutes physical and emotional abuse to children;
  • The safety and welfare of the child is paramount (i.e. the nationality or immigration status of the child is secondary and should be addressed only after the child's safety is assured);
  • Trafficked children are provided with the same standard of care that is available to any other child in the UK;
  • All decisions or plans for the child should be based on good quality assessments and supported by easily accessible multi-agency services; and
  • All agencies should work in partnership with members of local communities, to empower individuals and groups to develop support networks and education programmes.

4. Why do People Traffic Children?

Most children are trafficked for financial gain or sexual exploitation. This can include payment from or to the child's parents, and can involve the child in debt-bondage to the traffickers. In most cases, the trafficker also receives payment from those wanting to exploit the child once in the UK or a different region of the UK. Some trafficking is carried out by organised crime groups (OCGs). In other cases, individual adults or agents traffic children to or within the UK for their own personal gain. The exploitation of trafficked children may be progressive. Children trafficked for domestic work may also be vulnerable to sexual exploitation or children initially trafficked for sexual exploitation may be resold.

Children may be used for: 

  • Sexual exploitation, e.g. child sexual abuse, child abuse image - see also Safeguarding Children At Risk of Sexual Exploitation;
  • Domestic servitude, e.g. undertaking domestic chores, looking after young children;
  • Labour exploitation, e.g. working in restaurants, building sites, cleaning;
  • Enforced criminality, e.g. begging and pickpocketing, cannabis cultivation, drug dealing and trafficking;
  • Benefit fraud e.g. children registered with multiple identities so the adult/trafficker can claim multiple benefits;
  • Illegal adoption;
  • Forced marriage - see also Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Procedure;
  • Female genital mutilation; - see also Female Genital Mutilation Procedure;
  • Trade in human organs and in some cases ritual killing;
  • Sham Marriages, e.g. children may be used to make a sham marriage appear more realistic, this includes children being born specifically to consolidate a marriage.

This list is not exhaustive.

Benefit Fraud

In Greater Manchester the picture of Modern Slavery and Trafficking is becoming increasingly complex as the traffickers develop new ways of exploiting children.

For example there has been an increase in the number of children exploited for benefit fraud.

In one case a child was registered at two different schools using two different names. This was only identified when the child attended the wrong school, wearing the wrong school uniform on the wrong day.

Monitoring missing episodes from school is critical to identifying this.

Babies are also being used for benefit fraud using multiple identifies. In one case a health visitor identified this when visiting an address to weigh one baby and then another address a week later to weigh another, it was actually the same baby registered with two different parents at two different addresses. 

In both these cases the child was being exploited for benefit fraud.

Increasingly children are being born into a ‘sham marriage’ to make the marriage appear more ‘real’. Staged homes are often set up with cards from ‘grandparents’ congratulating the couple on the birth of the child. The child is a commodity in this arrangement and the current rate is approximately £15000 for a sham marriage including a child. The long term impact on children born into these arrangements is not yet fully understood but these cases raise significant concerns about the emotional and physical impact on the child.

5. Signs and Indicators

Below are some of the signs and indicators identified by the NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre:

  • Spends a lot of time doing household chores;
  • Rarely leaves their house, has no freedom of movement and no time for playing;
  • Is orphaned or living apart from their family, often in unregulated private foster care;
  • Lives in substandard accommodation;
  • Isn't sure which country, city or town they're in;
  • Is unable or reluctant to give details of accommodation or personal details;
  • Might not be registered with a school or a GP practice;
  • Has no documents or has falsified documents;
  • Has no access to their parents or guardians;
  • Is seen in inappropriate places such as brothels or factories;
  • Possesses unaccounted for money or goods;
  • Is permanently deprived of a large part of their earnings, required to earn a minimum amount of money every day or pay off an exorbitant debt;
  • Has injuries from workplace accidents;
  • Gives a prepared story which is very similar to stories given by other children.

Signs an adult is involved in child trafficking

There are also signs that an adult is involved in child trafficking, such as:

  • Making multiple visa applications for different children;
  • Acting as a guarantor for multiple visa applications for children;
  • Travelling with different children who they are not related to or responsible for;
  • Insisting on remaining with and speaking for the child;
  • Living with unrelated or newly arrived children;
  • Abandoning a child or claiming not to know a child they were previously with.

The signs and risks factors associated with Modern Slavery and Trafficking are complex and develop as we identify emerging issues. To see the full list of risk factors outlined in the NRM see the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People.

Professionals can also contact the Greater Manchester Police Modern Slavery Unit for advice and guidance regarding any concerns or information about potential trafficking and modern slavery cases on the email below.

6. Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Trafficked Children

All professionals who come into contact with children in their everyday work need to be able to identify children who may have been trafficked and be competent to act to support and protect these children from harm. Those working mainly with adults may also identify child trafficking. Professionals believing that a child has been or is being trafficked must act promptly before the child goes missing and follow this practice guidance.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children depends on effective joint working between agencies and professionals that have different roles and types of expertise. In the case of trafficked children, it is particularly important that links are established between statutory agencies and the voluntary and community sectors.

6.1 Action by Professionals and Agencies

Trafficking is first and foremost a safeguarding concern and you should follow your usual safeguarding processes. In addition to this, if a professional has information about possible victims, perpetrators or addresses/places, no matter how limited, that may be connected to trafficking or modern slavery this information should immediately be passed on to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) via the trafficking inbox at This is a secure email address. If a child is in immediate danger, call 999 at once FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

Whenever a practitioner identifies that a child may have been trafficked, (s)he should act promptly before the child goes missing or is abducted and assess the child's levels of need/risk of harm as set out in this guidance. See Section 5, Signs and Indicators for indicators that a child may be trafficked.

For guidance in conducting their assessments, professionals should also refer to the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People.

Proper assessment includes seeking information from relevant services if the child and family have spent time abroad. Provided this would not jeopardise the child's safety, agencies such as health, Children's Social Care and the police should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country or countries in which the child has lived. Information about who to contact can be obtained via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Due to the complex nature of trafficking crimes and the web of criminality that surrounds the perpetrators please ensure that contact is made with GMP’s central trafficking team via the above inbox to provide advice about safe points of contact in other countries.


Port authority officers:

All ports of entry in the UK are potential channels for trafficking children.

Identifying trafficked children at these ports of entry is likely to be difficult as they may not be showing obvious signs of distress.

The ports' intelligence units have developed a profile of trafficked children to assist immigration officers. Other resources readily available to staff include the location of child friendly immigration teams and settings, the local UKVI and the local Child Trafficking Lead Officer.

An immigration professional who is concerned that a child may have been trafficked should act promptly, following UKVI guidance. The professional should contact Children's Social Care (see Local Contacts) for the relevant area and the police. The contact with Children's Social Care Services should be confirmed by emailing or faxing a Referral Form within 48 hours.

Immigration professionals should also complete the Trafficking Assessment Tool in the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People and send section J only of the completed assessment to the UKHTC.

Professionals in other agencies:

A professional in another agency (other than Children's Social Care or the police) who suspects that a child may have been or is at risk of being trafficked should consult with their agency's safeguarding lead officer and/or local Child Trafficking Lead Officer. Greater Manchester Police’s Modern Slavery Coordination Unit may also be contacted for local advice and support. They are contactable on

Where it appears that the child is being cared for within a Private Fostering arrangement, Children's Social Care must be informed.

Where the child is living with a relative, a CAF should be completed, provided this will not increase the risk to the child or precipitate her/his abduction.

Professionals may find the Trafficking Risk Assessment Matrix in the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People helpful in judging whether the child is a victim of trafficking.

Where there are immediate safeguarding concerns, including concern that the child may be abducted, or the CAF concludes that the child has immediate or complex needs, Children's Social Care should be contacted using a Referral Form. Where contact is made by 'phone, this must be confirmed by submitting a completed Referral Form within 48 hours - see Making Referrals to Children's Social Care Procedure.

Where there is any urgency, contact with Children's Social Care Services must not be delayed.


Child victims may be discovered in routine police operations to detect and disrupt trafficking networks, and during other criminal investigations both in the UK and abroad. The police may also become aware of child trafficking concerns through being notified by Children's Social Care, other agencies or members of the public.

The role of the police is the same as in responding to any other child protection issues - to inform and assist in any Section 47 Enquiry and to undertake any consequent criminal investigation.

GMP has a specialist response to trafficking, the Modern Slavery Coordination Unit (MSCU), The MSCU is a multi-agency team that can provide advice, guidance and tactical advice to all agencies when concerns are raised regarding child trafficking.

The MSCU can attend at strategy meetings and provide operational assistance on urgent trafficking incidents where there are concerns about significant harm,

The MSCU holds a monthly multi agency complex case forum with partners from GMP, Immigration, Health, Barnardos and Children Services to provide advice to professionals working with children, families and vulnerable adults who have been trafficked.

To refer a complex case to this forum please contact the MSCU on

Children's Social Care

In responding to concerns that a child has been or is at risk of being trafficked, Children's Social Care should implement the usual safeguarding procedures. There should be an Assessment (informed by any available CAF).

The Assessment should include a Home Office check to clarify the status of the child and the adult(s) caring for her/him. During the Assessment where there is an urgent need to convene a Strategy Discussion and initiate a Section 47 Enquiry) a social worker should check all the documentation held by the referrer and other relevant agencies. In the case of a referral from a school or education service, the list of documentation provided at admission should also be obtained.

Documentation should include (if available), passport, Home Office papers, birth certificate and proof of guardianship. This list is not exhaustive and all possible types of documentation should be considered. A recent or new photograph of the child should be included as part of the child's record, together with copies of all relevant identification documentation.

When assessing paperwork/documentation, attention should be given to the detail. If a passport: When was it 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?) When assessing other documentation: does it appear to be the original? The worker should take copies to ensure further checks can be made.

Information gathering should include the child's presenting behaviours and what (s)he discloses together with whatever information is known about the child's circumstances, and expert advice about trafficked children. The expert advice (including identifying children, ensuring their safety, gaining their trust and assessing them) can be obtained from:

  • The local Child Trafficking Lead;
  • GMP’s Modern Slavery Coordination Unit;
  • The NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice and Information Line; and
  • Another local authority with expertise in responding to trafficked children.

Where the child appears to be in need of protection, a Strategy Discussion will be arranged. In addition to the usual agencies involved in a Strategy Discussion, GMP’s Modern Slavery Coordination Unit should be invited or consulted with. The involvement of this unit will provide access from Immigration Officers who may also be helpful. Immigration staff will be able to provide a clear explanation of the immigration process, different forms of documents and leave to enter the UK and an opinion on the validity of a document.

To minimise the risk of any further harm to the child and any possibility of her/him being abducted, particularly careful consideration will need to be given at the Strategy Discussion to planning any Section 47 Enquiry.

Guidance concerning the conduct of interviews during Section 47 Enquiries into child trafficking is given in the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People.

Professional interpreters, who have been approved and DBS checked, should be used where English is not the child's preferred language.

Under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be a parent, guardian or relative.

In all circumstances the child should be seen alone to ascertain their views.

On completion of the Section 47 Enquiries, a meeting should be held with the social worker, their supervising manager, the referring agency as appropriate, the police and any other professionals involved to decide on future action. Further action should not be taken until this meeting has been held and multi-agency agreement obtained to the proposed plan unless emergency action is required.

Where it is found that the child is not a family member and is not related to any other person in this country, consideration should be given as to whether the child needs to be moved from the household and/or legal advice sought on making a separate application for immigration status.

Before a decision is made that a child should be repatriated to their country of origin or for family members abroad to be contacted as potential carers, checks will need to be made to ensure this action does not place a child at further risk of harm.

Contact can be made with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to determine safe points or contact in other countries. Professionals can also contact the Modern Slavery Unit or NSPCC CTAC service for assistance in identifying safe points of contact.

Any law enforcement action regarding fraud, trafficking, deception and illegal entry to this country is the remit of the police. The local authority should assist in any way possible. However, the responsibility for taking legal action usually remains with the criminal justice agencies.

Social Workers can also refer to the MSCU Complex Case Forum (see above) for multi-agency support.

6.2 Age Assessments

See Safeguarding Children from Abroad Procedure for information on Age Assessment.

Assessing the age of a victim of trafficking can be necessary because a child may have forged documents or documents which belong to another child, in order to make them appear younger or older. Children are groomed (coerced) to lie about their age by the adults trafficking and exploiting them. Accordingly, information about a child provided by an accompanying adult/carer may not be accurate.

When the age of the victim is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that they are a child, either because the victim has stated they are under 18 years of age or there is documentation or information from statutory or specialist agencies that have raised concerns that they may be under 18, then (s)he should be presumed to be a child and be provided with full protection as a child victim of trafficking until her/his age can be verified.

Where there is any doubt about an individual's age and entitlement to services as a child, it is imperative that an age assessment be undertaken. As the legal position regarding age assessments can change frequently, legal advice should be sought in more complex cases.

7. Why is Trafficking Possible?

Children may be trafficked for a variety of different reasons. There are a number of factors in the region or country of origin which might make children vulnerable to being trafficked, and the factors listed below are by no means a comprehensive list.

Poverty: in general, this is the root cause of vulnerability to exploitation. The recruiter's promises of work or income are seen by families as a possible escape route from impoverished circumstances. At the very least a child's departure means one less mouth to feed.

Lack of education: attendance at school has proved to be a key means of protecting children from all forms of exploitation, including trafficking. Traffickers promise education for children whose parents cannot afford to pay school fees, or where schools are difficult to access or are of poor quality.

Discrimination: this can be based both on gender and ethnicity. In some cultures, girls are expected to make sacrifices in terms of their education and security for the benefit of the family. They represent less of an investment for the family because their contribution to the family will end when they leave to marry (in some cases marriage itself may be too expensive for the family). Many trafficking victims are from minority communities who are socially discriminated against and disadvantaged in their own country.

Cultural attitudes: traditional cultural attitudes can mean that some children are more vulnerable to trafficking than others. In some cultures the rights of children are ignored and they are seen as commodities to be traded. In some countries it is the custom for children to work as domestic servants in households. It is, therefore, possible that a child is taken abroad by a relative or someone claiming to be a relative, to work as a domestic servant. Sometimes the child, or the family of the child, is promised an education and a better life.

Grooming: Children are sometimes trafficked out of their region or country of origin after having been groomed for purposes of exploitation. This can be done over the internet by child sex offenders.

Dysfunctional families: children may choose to leave home as a result of domestic violence and abuse and neglect, or they may be forced to leave home for a variety of reasons. They then become vulnerable to trafficking, particularly if they become destitute or homeless.

Political conflict and economic transition: these often lead to movements of large numbers of people and the erosion of economic and social protection mechanisms. Parents or guardians may be killed, leaving children vulnerable to trafficking.

Inadequate local laws and regulations: trafficking involves many different events and processes, and legislation has been slow to keep pace. Most countries have legislation against exploitative child labour, but not all have laws specifically against trafficking. Even where there is appropriate legislation, enforcement is often hampered by lack of prioritisation, corruption and ignorance of the law.

While there is demand for child exploitation in the UK, trafficking will continue to be a problem.

8. How are Children Recruited and Controlled?

Traffickers recruit their victims using a variety of methods. Some children are abducted or kidnapped, although most children are trapped in subversive ways, e.g.:

  • Children are promised education or what is regarded as respectable work, such as in restaurants or as domestic servants;
  • Parents are persuaded that their children will have a better life elsewhere.

Many children travel on false documents. Even those whose documents are genuine may not have access to them. One way that traffickers control children is to retain their passports and threaten children that should they escape, they will be deported. The creation of a false identity for a child can give a trafficker direct control over every aspect of a child's life, for example, by claiming to be a parent or guardian.

Even before they travel, children may be abused and exploited to ensure that the trafficker's control over the child continues after the child is transferred to someone else's care, e.g.:

  • Confiscation of the child's identity documents;
  • Threats of reporting the child to the authorities;
  • Violence, or threats of violence, towards the child and/or her/his family;
  • Keeping the child socially isolated;
  • Keeping the child locked up;
  • Telling some children that they owe large sums of money and that they must work to pay this off;
  • Depriving the child of money; and
  • Voodoo or witchcraft, which may be used to frighten children, for example into thinking that they and their families will die if they tell anyone about the traffickers.
The traffickers might be part of a well organised criminal network, or they might be individuals involved in only one of the various stages of the operation, such as the provision of false documentation, transport, or places where the child's presence can be concealed.

9. How are Children Brought to the UK?

Any port of entry into the UK might be used by traffickers. There is evidence that some children are trafficked via numerous transit countries and many may travel through other European Union countries before arriving in the UK. Recent experience suggests that as checks have improved at the larger ports of entry, such as Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick airports, traffickers are starting to use smaller ports or other regional airports. Traffickers are also known to use the Eurostar rail service and ferries to UK sea ports.

Increasingly traffickers are identifying more clandestine routes to bring children into the UK including bus routes and lorries.

Children enter the UK in two key ways, accompanied by adult(s) or as unaccompanied minors.

9.1 Accompanied Children

There are many legitimate reasons for children being brought to the UK, such as economic migration with their family, education, re-unification with family or fleeing a war-torn country. Some children will have travelled with their parent(s).

However, a number of children arrive in the UK accompanied by adults who are either not related to them or in circumstances which raise child protection concerns. For example, there may be little evidence of any pre-existing relationship or even an absence of any knowledge of the sponsor. There may be unsatisfactory accommodation arranged in the UK, or perhaps no evidence of parental permission for the child to travel to the UK or stay with the sponsor. These irregularities may be the only indication that the child could be a victim of trafficking.

To curb illegal migration and improve children's safeguards, new global visa regulations have been in place since February 2006. A photograph of the child is now shown on the visa, together with the name and passport number of the adult(s) who have been given permission to travel with the child.

Some accompanied children may apply for asylum claiming to be unaccompanied, after being told by their trafficker that by doing so they will be granted permission to reside in the UK and be entitled to claim welfare benefits.

9.2 Unaccompanied Children

Groups of unaccompanied children often come to the notice of the UKVI.

Unaccompanied children may enter the UK as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC), or they may be here to attend school or join their family. A child may be the subject of a Private Fostering arrangement. If the child is unaccompanied and not travelling to his or her parent, or if there are some concerns over the legitimacy or suitability of the proposed arrangement for the child's care in the UK, (s)he will be referred to the relevant Children's Social Care by UKVI.

Some groups of children will avoid contact with authorities because they are instructed to do so by their traffickers. In other cases the traffickers insist that the child applies for asylum as this gives the child a legitimate right of temporary leave to remain in the UK.

It is suspected that significant numbers of children are referred to Children's Social Care after applying for asylum and some even register at school for up to a term, before disappearing again. It is thought that they are trafficked internally within the UK or out of the UK to other European countries.

10. Internal Trafficking

There is increasing evidence that children (both of UK and other citizenship) are being trafficked internally within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation and other reasons (see also Safeguarding Children and Young People Abused Through Sexual Exploitation Procedure). The list of indicators in the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People should help identify these children. Children may be trafficked internally for various reasons; many of them similar to the reasons children are trafficked between countries.

Although statistics for the UK identify female children at a higher risk of trafficking professionals should be aware that boys are increasingly at risk of exploitation and trafficking and therefore more needs to be done to understand their vulnerabilities.

See also section on Benefit Fraud.

11. The Impact of Trafficking on Children's Health and Welfare

All children who have been exploited will suffer some form of physical or mental harm. Usually, the longer the exploitation, the more health problems that will be experienced.

Trafficked children are not only deprived of their rights to health care and freedom from exploitation and abuse, they may not be provided with access to education too.

The creation of a false identity and implied criminality of the children, together with the loss of family and community, may seriously undermine their sense of self-worth. At the time they are found, trafficked children may not show any obvious signs of distress or imminent harm, they may be vulnerable to particular types of abuse and may continue to experience the effects of their abuse in the future.

11.1 Physical Abuse

This can include:

  • Inappropriate chastisement, not receiving routine and emergency medical attention (partly through a lack of care about their welfare and partly because of the need for secrecy surrounding their circumstances);
  • Children being sexually exploited/raped are open to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and for girls there is the risk of early pregnancy and possible damage to their reproductive health;
  • Physical beatings;
  • Addiction to drugs (some trafficked children are subdued with drugs, which they then become dependent on). They are then effectively trapped within the cycle of exploitation, continuing to work in return for a supply of drugs;
  • Alcohol addiction;
  • Female genital mutilation (children are trafficked to undergo female genital mutilation) - see Female Genital Mutilation Procedure for further guidance; and
  • Stress/post-traumatic stress (PTSD) related physical disorders such as skin diseases, migraine, backache etc.
Some forms of harm might be linked to a belief in spirit possession - see Child Abuse Linked to Spirit Possession.

11.2 Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Some kind of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, including trafficking. For children trafficked outside their country of origin they may feel disorientated after leaving their family environment, no matter how impoverished and difficult. This disorientation can be compounded for some children who have to assume a new identity or have no identity at all and are isolated from the local community in the UK if they are kept away from school and because they cannot speak English.

They may:

  • Fear of physical threats to themselves or to their friends and family;
  • For UK trafficked victims fear of family members and the community being informed of their experiences and being labelled a slag and blamed;
  • Being ostracised;
  • Fear both the adults who have physical control of them and the threat that they will be reported to the authorities as immigration criminals;
  • Lose their trust in all adults;
  • Have low self-esteem and believe that the experience has ruined them for life psychologically and socially. They may become depressed, and sometimes suicidal;
  • Worry about people in their families and communities knowing what has happened to them, and become afraid to go home; and
  • Feel like criminals as a result of the new identity forced on them, which can have long term consequences for their adult lives.

All children who have been exploited are likely to suffer some form of mental harm, usually the longer the exploitation, the more mental health problems that will be experienced. These can include:

  • Psychological distress owing to their sense of powerlessness - in many cases involving violence and deprivation at the hands of their traffickers, which can be extreme, it will take the form of post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Dependent relationships with their abusers;
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks, irritability and other symptoms of stress, such as nervous breakdowns;
  • A loss of ability to concentrate; and
  • Becoming anti-social, aggressive and angry, and/or fearful and nervous - finding it difficult to relate to others, including in the family and at work.

11.3 Sexual Abuse

Trafficked children may be sexually abused as part of being controlled or because they are vulnerable. In the UK the vast majority of known cases of trafficked minors is for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Children being sexually exploited are at risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and for girls there is the risk of an unwanted early pregnancy and possible damage to their sexual and reproductive health.

11.4 Neglect

Trafficked children may also suffer neglect. In particular, they may not receive routine and emergency medical attention (partly through a lack of care about their welfare and partly because of the need for secrecy surrounding their circumstances). They may also be subject to physical, sensory and food deprivation. Trafficked and exploited children are deprived of their rights to health and freedom from exploitation and abuse, and to education and related life opportunities.

12. Obstacles to Child Disclosing Trafficking

Children are unlikely to disclose they have been trafficked, as most do not have an awareness of what trafficking is or may believe they are coming to the UK for a better life, accepting that they have entered the country illegally. It is likely that the child will have been coached with a story to tell the authorities in the UK and warned not to disclose any detail beyond the story, as this would lead them to being reported.

Apparent collusion with the trafficker can add to confusion when attempting to identify a child as victim of trafficking. The child may be reluctant to disclose their circumstances because:

  • His or her experience of authority in their country of origin is such that they do not trust the police or other statutory agencies ((s)he may provide a statement to a voluntary or community agency);
  • The identification and referral process may mimic aspects of what had happened during trafficking - promises of help and a good life, movement by persons the child did not know, being taken to unknown locations where 'everything would be fine' and 'they would be taken care of':
    • The circumstances, even under exploitation, in the UK may compare more favourably to the child's experiences at home.

Disclosure from a child can take time, especially where the child is within the control of a trafficker of facilitator and relies on a relationship of trust and safety being established.

In view of the above, professionals need to be aware of indicators (i.e. behaviour, statements and circumstances) that a child may have been or might be being trafficked. Clusters of indicators around a child can highlight concern which triggers a systematic assessment of the child's circumstances and experiences.

There a number of such indicators which suggest that a child may have been trafficked into the UK, and may still be controlled by the traffickers or receiving adults. Many are listed in the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People.

13. National Referral Mechanism

There is a duty on first responders such as local authorities and police to complete the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) form and send to UKHTC in all cases of suspected trafficking. Other first responders include;

UK Border Force, Home Office Immigration and Visas, Gang Master Licensing, Health and Social Care Trusts, The Salvation Army, Barnardos, NSPCC CTAC, Refugee Council, Medaille Trust.

In all cases of suspected trafficking victims in Greater Manchester it is requested that the first responder also notifies the Modern Slavery Unit of the NRM referral to UKHTC. This will enable the MSCU to monitor the emerging risks and incidents across Greater Manchester to support professionals and agencies with the appropriate intervention. The NRM can be copied to

This does not replace the referral process to UKHTC.

As part of their assessment, Children's Social Care should use the Trafficking Risk Assessment Matrix and the Trafficking Assessment Tool in the Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People.

These will assist in:

  • Assessing whether the child has been or is at risk of being trafficked; and
  • Describing the safeguarding concerns in terms of the 'reasonable grounds' for believing - though in most cases not being able to prove - that this is the case.

The 'reasonable grounds' test focuses firstly on the applicability and credibility of the child's story and circumstances to the definition of trafficking. Reasonable grounds exist where the assessor can say "I suspect that this child is likely to have been trafficked".

Where it is established that "reasonable grounds" exist, Children's Social Care must notify the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) using the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referral form, supported by the Trafficking Assessment Tool.

This will allow the UKHCT to suspend immigration activity for a 45 day period. This should enable frontline professionals to complete fully the safeguarding assessment needed to inform the Trafficking Assessment Tool, and clarify for Children's Social Care whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is a victim of trafficking.

The 45 day period is also a period in which scope for criminal investigation can be explored.

14. Matters to Consider when Working with Trafficked Children

The following services are likely to be necessary to address the child's needs:

  • Appropriately trained and DBS checked independent interpreters;
  • Counselling;
  • Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS);
  • Independent legal advice;
  • Medical services;
  • Sexual health services;
  • Education;
  • Family tracing and contact (unless it is not consistent with their welfare); and
  • If appropriate, repatriation.

They will also need:

  • Professionals to be informed and competent in matters relating to trafficking and exploitation;
  • Someone to spend time with them to build up a level of trust;
  • To be interviewed separately. Children will usually stick to their account and not speak until they feel comfortable;
  • A safe placement if they are victims of an organised trafficking operation;
  • Their whereabouts to be kept confidential;
  • Legal advice about their rights and immigration status. Professionals should make every effort to assist children to benefit from independent legal advice from a solicitor with experience in child trafficking;
  • Discretion and caution to be used in tracing their families;
  • A risk assessment to be made of the danger the child will face if he or she is repatriated; and
  • Where appropriate, accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 or on application for an Interim Care Order.

Professionals should:

  • Consider interviewing children in school as they may feel more able to talk or if the child is not attending school use an NGO premises so the child feels safe and comfortable to talk;
  • Consider talking to children using the phone, e-mail, text;
  • Ensure that carers are not in the proximity; and
  • Ensure that interpreters are agency approved and are DBS checked.

15. Potential Prosecution of Traffickers

15.1 Some Considerations when Deciding to Prosecute

Whether an alleged trafficker is being prosecuted may be of relevance but the decision to identify a victim (either preliminary or conclusively) is not dependent on a conviction of the perpetrators, or on whether or not the victim cooperates in the criminal proceedings.

Decision makers need to be aware that any deliberations that are made will be subject to rules of disclosure in any subsequent prosecution for trafficking. Where an individual is being treated by the police as a potential witness, regardless of whether they are likely to be found to be victims or not, case managers should ensure lines of communication with the Senior Investigating Officer are kept open.

The decision as to whether someone is a victim or not is for the UKHTC to make, but officers must be alert to the impact that the decision may have not only on the victim but other stakeholders in the criminal justice process.

15.2 Supporting Child Witnesses

Assessing the willingness and capacity of a child victim to testify in court against a trafficker is complicated. This also applies to the process of gathering information that might support Care Proceedings. Like victims of domestic violence and abuse, the child usually fears reprisal from the traffickers and/or the adults with whom he or she was living in the UK if they co-operate with Children's Social Care Services or the police.

For children trafficked from abroad an additional level of anxiety may exist because of fear of reprisals against their family in their home country. They may also fear being deported, having entered the UK illegally. Children who might agree to testify in a criminal case fear that they will be discredited in court because they were coerced into lying on their visa applications or immigration papers. No child should be coerced into testifying in court against a trafficker.

16. Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin

In many cases, and with advice from their lawyers, trafficked children apply to the UKVI for asylum or for humanitarian protection. This is often because of the high risk they face of coming to harm if they are forced to return to their countries of origin. All such claims must be carefully considered. Among the factors to consider if the child is deported is the risk of him or her being re-trafficked with the possibility of further exploitation and abuse. When considering the child's application it will be important to gather information about the child's family, community and general conditions in the country of origin.

If the child does not qualify for asylum or humanitarian protection, and adequate reception arrangements are in place in the country of origin, the child will usually have to return. The process of returning the child should be handled sensitively and will require close co-operation between the UKVI and the child's social worker.

It is important that appropriate steps are taken to minimise the possibility of the child going missing once a decision to return him or her to their country of origin has been made. Equally, the social worker may be best placed to reconcile the child to being returned, and in helping the child access the assistance with reintegration which is available through voluntary return schemes (which are always the preferred way of carrying out any return to the child's country of origin).

17. Particularly Vulnerable Groups of Children

17.1 Inter-Country Adoption

In some instances children may be trafficked for the purposes of adoption outside their country of origin. Those involved in facilitating these arrangements may deceive the authorities responsible for the adoption process, and often benefit from significant financial gain through payments by prospective adopters who may be unaware of the true circumstances of a child's availability for adoption. This can include payment, coercion or the deception of birth parents into relinquishing a child as well as abducting children.

The UK Government allows inter-country adoption to take place if it is in the child's best interests and in accordance with the principles of international law, and where safeguards and standards equivalent to those which apply in domestic adoption are applied to protect the welfare of the child. At no point should profit be made from the process.

Professionals who suspect that a child may have been trafficked for the purposes of adoption are encouraged to notify the Police or the relevant Children's Social Care.

17.2 Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement arises when a child under 16 years (or under 18 if disabled) is to reside for more than 28 days in the care of someone who is not a parent, someone with parental responsibility or a close relative (i.e. the carers are not the child's grandparent, brother, sister, step parent or uncle (by affinity, marriage or civil partnership).

Parents and private foster carers are required to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement. A person who proposes to foster a child privately must notify the appropriate local authority of the proposal at least six weeks before the private fostering arrangement is to begin; or where the private fostering arrangement is to begin within six weeks, immediately.

Many private fostering arrangements are not notified to the local authority for a variety of reasons, not all of them associated with a risk of serious harm. Identifying a child who is privately fostered is not the same as identifying a child who has been trafficked. Nevertheless, some children in private fostering arrangements are vulnerable to being exploited in domestic servitude, other forms of forced labour, or even to sexual exploitation. It is difficult for professionals to identify these children and, therefore, to track their movements and hence monitor their welfare.

However, it is important to consider whether a carer, whether or not they present as a relative, is maintaining a private fostering arrangement in order to exploit a child for their own gain.

Professionals who believe that a child may be privately fostered, whether or not they have suspicions or concerns about trafficking or other forms of abuse, must notify Children's Social Care.

17.3 Trafficked Children who are Looked After

A child who may be at risk from, or has been, trafficked, may be accommodated by the local authority, which will care for the child as for any other looked after child. The child will have a Care Plan (which becomes the Pathway Plan when (s)he turns 16 and (s)he will be entitled to care leaving support) based on a thorough needs assessment outlining how the local authority proposes to meet their needs.

The assessment of needs to inform the Care Plan should cover the same dimensions of need as the assessment for any other looked after child. However in addition, for children who may have been trafficked, the assessment should include:

  • Establishing relevant information about the child's background;
  • Understanding the reasons the child has come to the UK; and
  • Assessing the child's vulnerability to the continuing influence / control of his or her traffickers.

This should ensure that the Care Plan includes a risk assessment setting out how the local authority intends to safeguard the young person so that, as far as possible, they can be protected from any trafficker to minimise any risk of traffickers being able to re-involve a child in exploitative activities. This plan should include contingency plans to be followed if the young person goes missing (see Section 17.4, Looked After Trafficked Children who go Missing).

Given the circumstances in which potentially trafficked young people present to local authorities it will be extremely important that any needs assessments and related risk assessments are sensitively managed. It should allow for the child's need to be in a safe place before any assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately as they, or their families, may have been intimidated by traffickers.

Therefore, it will be important that:

  • The location of the child should 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, if necessary with the help of police and immigration services;
  • Foster carers/residential workers should be vigilant about anything unusual (e.g. waiting cars outside the premises and telephone enquiries).

Children's Social Care should continue to share information with the police. This information may emerge during the placement of a looked after child who may have been trafficked and concern potential crimes against the child, the risk to other children, or relevant immigration matters.

Where adults present in this country claim a family connection to the child, the local authority should take steps to verify the relationship between the child and these adults and exercise due caution in case they are a trafficker or a relative colluding with trafficking or exploitation of the child.

Anyone approaching the local authority and claiming to be a potential carer, friend, member of the family, etc., should be investigated by the local authority, the police and the UKVI. Normal procedures for re-uniting a child with their family should be followed. Where a child may have been trafficked it will be necessary to ensure that a risk assessment takes place prior to reunification, establishing that the adult concerned is who they say they are and is able to keep the child safe and exercise responsibility for their care.

It is important that no assumptions are made about young people's language skills and that assessments can call on the services of impartial translators with the necessary competencies in responding to children.

The local authority responsible for the child should try to identify, locate and make contact with the child's parents in the country of origin, to seek their views.

17.4 Looked After Trafficked Children who go Missing

Research from End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children (ECPAT) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) suggests that significant numbers of children who are categorised as unaccompanied asylum seeking children have also been trafficked. Some of these children go missing (back into the care of the traffickers) before being properly identified as victims of trafficking. Such cases should be reported urgently to the police.

Children's Social Care should consider seriously the risk that a trafficked child is likely to go missing and take this into account in planning that child's care. All placements should be given a copy of this guidance. A contingency plan could include contact details of agencies that should be notified if a potentially trafficked young person goes missing including the police and the UKVI.

If a child does go missing, professionals should follow the regional Protocol for Children Missing from Home and Care (see Children Missing from Home and Care - A Standardised Approach to Dealing with Missing and Absent Children and Young People Across Greater Manchester Procedure). A 24 hour enquiry service available from the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Centre (MSHTC) may help in providing additional guidance. The NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice and Information Help Line.

Where there are concerns that a trafficked child has been moved to elsewhere in the country away from their care placement, then it may be helpful to contact Missing People, which has a team that offers support to local authorities when young people in their care go missing and this service can advise on issues such as contact with other police forces and national publicity.

18. Additional Information and Guidance

18.1 Additional National Information and Guidance

Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) - helpline for professionals dealing with potential victims of modern slavery

Modern Slavery Helpline

How to Report Modern Slavery (Home Office, December 2016)

National Referral Mechanism: Guidance for Child First Responders

Victims of Modern Slavery - Frontline Staff Guidance Version 3 (Home Office UK Visas and Immigration, March 2016)

Home Office Circular - Modern Slavery Act 2015

Modern Slavery Act 2015

Modern Slavery Act 2015: Recent developments - Briefing Paper, July 2016

College of Policing - Modern Slavery 

Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU)

Modern Slavery: Duty to Notify Factsheets (GOV.UK, October 2016)

Working With Foreign Authorities Guidance

Care of Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children - Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Children

NSPCC - Are You a Child Who Has Come to the UK from Another Country?   


Modern Slavery - Royal College of Nursing Guide for Nurses and Midwives

NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice and Information Help Line

18.2 Additional Local Information and Guidance

Manchester Safeguarding Children Board's Toolkit for Safeguarding Migrant and Trafficked Children and Young People

Local Contacts – Modern Slavery


Appendix 1: AFRUCA Anti-Trafficking Programme Information Leaflet: Psychotherapy for Trafficked Survivors

Appendix 2: AFRUCA Anti-Trafficking Programme Therapeutic Services Referral Form