Under the Home Office funded scheme, child victims will be allocated a specialist advocate trained in the unique needs facing these children. The advocates will provide each child with a single point of contact to guide them through children’s services and the criminal justice and immigration systems.
This new network of support, announced in January, will be trialled across 23 local authorities in England from mid-August.
Modern Slavery and Organised Crime Minister Karen Bradley said:
Child victims of trafficking are a particularly vulnerable group in need of individually tailored support. Specialist advocates will help give these children a voice and ensure they receive the protection they need and deserve.
Barnardo’s strong track record of supporting children makes them ideally qualified to deliver these trials which we intend to run alongside the passage of the Modern Slavery Bill. Giving child victims of trafficking the help and protection they need should not have to wait for legislation if there are practical steps we can take now.
As part of the trial the charity will also deliver a dedicated network of volunteers to work alongside the specialist advocates and assist with lower level support, a 24-hour helpline for children and professionals looking for immediate support from the service and bespoke training for local professionals.
The move is part of the government’s wider commitment to stamp out slavery and protect victims through legislative and non-legislative work, including a comprehensive programme of activity which will improve the support and protection for victims.
At the end of the trials an in-depth evaluation of the system will take place to ensure it is giving children the specialist support they need. It was announced earlier this month that the Modern Slavery Bill will include a power allowing the Home Secretary to enable child trafficking advocates to be appointed to child victims. The power will give future advocates a recognised legal status, the details of which will be based on a thorough assessment of the results of the trials.
Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan said:
Barnardo’s is delighted to have been chosen to deliver the child advocacy scheme. It will help provide support to exceptionally vulnerable children so they don’t have to journey alone through our complicated legal systems. Instead they will now have an expert advocate with them every step of the way.
I am very pleased the Government is focussed on tackling child trafficking, including moving to strengthen the role of advocates by giving them a legal status in future as part of the Modern Slavery Bill. Our specialist services have long helped young victims of modern slavery cope with the practical and emotional traumas of being trafficked. We look forward to providing a lifeline of support for many more in the future through this child advocacy scheme.