Interim Statutory Guidance published on Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (‘ICTA’) The statutory guidance is published pursuant to s.49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and is effective from January 2017. It provides guidance to the three Early Adopter Sites where Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs) will be implemented, namely Hampshire & Isle of Wight, Greater Manchester and Wales.
The statutory guidance is published pursuant to s.49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and is effective from January 2017. It provides guidance to the three Early Adopter Sites where Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs) will be implemented, namely Hampshire & Isle of Wight, Greater Manchester and Wales.
The guidance is directed at all ICTA Service Provider staff, public authorities (including the Border Force, the police, Immigration Enforcement, UKVI and the National Crime Agency) as well as non-governmental organisations who come into contact with potential child victims of trafficking.
Pursuant to paragraph 18, when considering the support needs of trafficking children, ICTAs and public authorities should keep in mind the following principles:
- Child trafficking is child abuse and relevant child protection procedures, as set out in ‘Working together to safeguard children’, must be followed if trafficking is suspected;
- Acting in the child’s best interests must always be a primary consideration, as outlined in Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and elaborated in the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s General Comment 14;
- All public authorities who come into contact with children in their everyday work should to be able to identify potential victims of child trafficking, and have a responsibility to act to protect these children from potential or actual harm, including referring them to appropriate organisations for support;
- All public authorities and practitioners are expected to work together and contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard the child, promote their welfare and keep them safe from harm or further harm;
- Children have the right to have their dignity respected;
- The child or young person’s views, wishes and feelings should always be sought and taken into consideration by their social worker/representative/trusted individual/ICTA and all others involved in the decision-making process on behalf of the child, in order to collaboratively decide how to best manage and support their care and safety needs;
- Children should always be kept as fully informed as possible and should receive clear and detailed information concerning their support, explained in a way/language that they can understand and in a format appropriate to their age and developmental stage;
- The development process from childhood to adulthood, particularly during adolescence, involves significant changes in a wide range of areas, such as physical, emotional and cognitive development. Victims of trafficking may have suffered significant trauma as a result of their experiences which can have an impact on their individual developmental process. These factors need to be taken into account when determining how best to support the child;
- Local authorities should, where appropriate, consult other public authorities in the Early Adopter Site, as well as other local authorities across England, in respect of the availability of appropriate accommodation, when undertaking the risk assessment for the child and in developing the personalised care and support plan;
- All children should receive the same access to educational provision regardless of their immigration status. For children who do not speak English or have communication difficulties, this should also include access to language and communication support and schools will respond to each child according to their educational needs;
- Any restriction imposed on a child to protect them from being potentially trafficked again should be kept to the necessary minimum. Any restriction should be discussed with the child, and, wherever possible, agreed with them. This could include, for example, the removal of mobile phones and access to the internet to stop potential contact with traffickers.
Main aims of ICTAs
The main aims of the ICTAs have been identified as follows:
- to support and advocate on behalf of the child for 18 months or until the child turns 18 years old;
- to advocate on behalf of the child and ensure that the child’s best interests are reflected in the decision making progress;
- to accompany the child to meetings and ensure the child’s participation;
- to protect the child from further harm and make recommendations for referrals to other services;
- to liaise with public authorities to ensure that the child’s educational and health needs are met;
- where necessary, to challenge statutory services on how best to support the child they represent, including in assisting the child to obtain legal advice;
- to proactively support other agencies to find missing trafficking children;
- to provide the Home Office with data requested on a regular basis in relation to the children they are supporting
ICTA’s will be available for all potentially trafficked and trafficked children (in receipt of a reasonable grounds decision), irrespective of nationality of immigration status (for UK children, EEA and non-EEA nationals). They will not have parental responsibility or legal responsibility for the children they support. Where an age assessment is being undertaken (and during any related judicial review challenge), the potential victim of trafficking will remain entitled to an ICTA as they will be presumed a child pursuant to s.51 MSA 2015.
Public authorities must pay due regard to the ICTA and provide information necessary to support them in their role.
When a child victim of trafficking goes missing
Of particular importance is the following guidance on steps to be taken by an ICTA when a child victim of trafficking goes missing: [at paragraphs 114-120]
- ensure that this is reported immediately to the Police and local authority;
- encourage statutory agencies involved in the care of the child to appropriately risk assess the missing episode and ensure that finding the child is prioritised by the appropriate agencies;
- ensure and provide a coordinated response via strategy meetings and act as a conduit with all involved statutory agencies and provide information that may help find the child;
- continue to oversee the NRM process by submitting a referral if one has not been completed prior to the missing episode, or by submitting additional information after the child has gone missing;
- they may also discuss with the Competent Authority (CA) whether the CA will suspend or proceed to take a decision on the child’s NRM status;
- ensure momentum of the case is maintained and that the child does not disappear from the considerations of statutory agencies involved in finding them, and
- ensure on return that a return home interview is conducted and this should be detailed in the care plan. Therefore consideration should be given to the child’s potential exposure to trafficking indicators during their return home interview. All relevant learning from the return home interview should be shared with all relevant parties.