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Last updated: 19.12.16

How to work with children who have been trafficked

Each year, children are trafficked to and within the UK for reasons such as criminal, sexual and labour exploitation, and for domestic servitude.

For social workers, child trafficking can be one of the most difficult areas to work in. Currently, there is no fixed model for trafficking children but they can brought into the UK legally with a visa or illegally through clandestine means.

Unfortunately, because most children are unable to give prosecutors a complete account of what has happened to them, convictions for trafficking are scarce.

Here we take a look at the key ways social workers can operate best in such an expert area.

Avoid ambiguous phrases

In your case records avoid using words like ‘claim’ or ‘alleged’ as they may create doubt about a child’s credibility and neglect the role of the traffickers. You must remember that a child cannot give informed consent to exploitation.

Take comprehensive notes

When a child is disclosing any form of exploitation, make careful notes of this and your professional opinion about it as it will support the young person in question. Often, during asylum, a child’s credibility is challenged, so these notes will back them up.

Listen with empathy

Children who have been trafficked may be terrified of the consequences of their confession. Listen with empathy and don’t offer unrealistic assurances about safety or resources but encourage them to keep working with you and other professionals.

Treat each case separately

Every child trafficking case must be assessed on its own merit. Don’t highlight concerns directly with any accompanying adult as it may pose a risk to the child.

Be open-minded

Social workers should approach every case with an open-minded, keeping an eye out for anything that would safeguard a child from different types of exploitation.