Hope for Justice is taking vital steps to protect young survivors of modern-day slavery and human trafficking from falling through the gaps in support systems.
There is currently very limited provision in the UK to help young people who are potential or identified victims as they transition from child to adult services.
What support is available to young people who have been trafficked?
In the UK, the provision of government-funded support to trafficked children is delivered by Barnardo’s, via their Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs). ICTGs provide specialist advocacy, advice and vital support to trafficked children. In the majority of areas in the UK, this support currently ends when the individual turns 18 (the Home Office is piloting an extension of the ICTG provision from 18-25 in a small number of areas around the UK). However, there is currently no clear pathway to ensure that survivors of modern-day slavery and human trafficking – especially those who do not fit the UK’s care leaver criteria – receive adequate support when they turn 18.
Ellie Russell, Hope for Justice’s UK Advocacy Manager, said: “At this critical time in their life, it is vital that young adult survivors of modern-day slavery are not failed by systems. It is important they receive practical, emotional and trauma-informed support in a safe and stable environment. Advocacy is often required to overcome barriers and ensure survivors’ legal and support needs are identified and addressed. We recognised a gap in services for the transition from child to adult services, especially for young people who do not fit the care leaver criteria. We have therefore created a new role – that of Child Trafficking Transition Specialist (CTTS) – to work closely with ICTGs and bridge the gap. This role is similar to that of our Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSA) but tailored to respond to the specific needs of young adult survivors.”
How does Hope for Justice receive referrals?
Hope for Justice has a referral pathway with Barnardo’s in Greater Manchester and the Midlands region, to ensure young adult survivors are supported through this transition. We also accept referrals from Local Authorities or other organisations who are supporting young adult survivors.
Elle Williams, our Child Trafficking Transition Specialist (CTTS), has received seven referrals since joining our team four months ago.
She explained: “As the CTTS at Hope for Justice, I ensure that young people have a clear point of contact at a crucial time in their life when they are transitioning between services. Barnardo’s refer the young person to us before they turn 18, giving us time to meet the survivor, build bridges of trust, carry out joint working, and ensure there is a thorough handover of support to Hope for Justice. The number of points of contact will depend on the complexity of the case. We are bridging the gap at a time when these young people might otherwise be at risk of going missing, or of being re-trafficked.”
What happens to trafficking survivors when they turn 18?
Anyone who has been under the care of the local authority for 13 weeks prior to turning 18 is classed as a care leaver, which means they will continue to receive support from the Local Authority until they are aged 21 or 25, depending on their circumstances. This includes help with accommodation where their welfare requires it, support from a personal adviser or care leaving worker, funding for higher education and the right to stay in foster care for longer.
However, for young people who do not fall within this care leaver category – for example someone who was trafficked when they were 17 and then formally identified before their 18th birthday – they would be expected to transition from child to adult services. At this stage, they would often be required to move from local authority to asylum accommodation – with only outreach support – or to NRM accommodation – a safe house where they will receive holistic support.
There are many reasons why a young person might need additional support when they turn 18, including that they have not yet received their conclusive grounds decision via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK’s framework for determining whether a person is a victim of modern slavery. Other reasons might include that their asylum support is unconfirmed, or they have language barriers, or trauma from their exploitation.
Ellie Russell said: “The referrals we have received to date have been from a variety of countries including Albania, Vietnam, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan. Most of these young people are claiming asylum and without an advocate, there is a risk that, upon leaving Local Authority care, they may be placed in emergency housing for asylum seekers under Section 98 provision. This is usually a large hostel-style building, completely inappropriate for an 18-year-old survivor of human trafficking.”
Hope for Justice has advocated on numerous occasions to ensure that young adult survivors have access to accommodation and support provided for by the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract (MSVCC) whilst they are still within the NRM or placed in appropriate asylum accommodation, if this is their preference. Our joint-work with the ICTGs strengthens this transition.
Hope for Justice’s and Barnardo’s joint working
One of the ICTGs from Barnardo’s said: “The ICTGs and Hope for Justice share a common aim of protecting child victims of trafficking from the risk of further harm, re-trafficking or going missing and to achieve the best outcomes for them as they transition to adulthood. It is refreshing to note the positive outcomes of the ICTGs collaborative work with Hope for Justice. The coordinated joint working approach with the Child Trafficking Transition Specialist is vitally important and valuable in that it bridges the gap and provides continuity of support. The provision of specialist care enables child victims of trafficking to continue their recovery from exploitation and rebuild their lives with increased resilience against future exploitation.”
How the CTTS role is making a difference
Our team has specialist knowledge around the NRM and modern-day slavery and human trafficking, which informs our practices.
Elle Williams said: “For any young person who has been trafficked to the UK from another country, it is imperative that they feel heard, supported and safe. We ensure that young people are given the right support as they navigate an incredibly complex system.
“Another big part of the role is helping young people to access a new community, enrolling them at college, for example, finding a hobby, learning English, or connecting them with other people. These things are important for everyone but especially important for young people who do not have the right to work, who are overcoming multiple barriers, and whose vulnerabilities might otherwise be exploited. Working with young people is complex, sometimes difficult and always rewarding but this role gives me the opportunity to support young people through arguably one of the most difficult stages of their life.”
Read this blog to find out more information about how Hope for Justice is providing survivor care in the UK.