On Thursday 6 March Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas presented evidence to the Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill, which aims to simplify procedures for the prosecution of those involved in or convicted of slavery and human trafficking offences.
Anthony drew on experience and expertise of Cafcass practitioners to emphasise the importance of continued availability of specialised understanding, treatment and support for this highly vulnerable group.
Responding to examples from other jurisdictions, it was noted that rather than seeking to simply establish a parallel system it was necessary to work towards a system which was both sustainable and responsive to the complex needs of trafficked children, who make up an increasing proportion of the number of children in care.
Noting the need for effective advocacy, the effectiveness of existing multi-agency working was highlighted, in particular reducing the risk of loss of contact and subsequent re-trafficking of vulnerable children during the critical ‘golden-hour', the initial period in which a child becomes known to support agencies.
There was a call for more policy and practice guidance to be made available for professionals; in particular multi-agency guidance, which should include input from the Department of Health and the Department for Education. Despite a lack of available information on the ages of trafficked children, there is an awareness that the issues affecting them are likely to often extend beyond childhood. In order to work toward a better understand their continuing needs there was a there recognition of the need for additional outcomes and impact research on the ongoing issues for trafficked children.
Cafcass has already taken steps in this direction, introducing mandatory training for practitioners on identifying children who are at risk of sexual exploitation and responding to their specific needs resulting from experiences prior to as a result of their experiences.
The full text of the written evidence presented to the committee is available here.