Safe accommodation for child victims of trafficking campaign

As part of its Three Small Steps campaign to protect child victims of trafficking, ECPAT UK is calling for safe accommodation for child victims of trafficking in the UK.

Read the latest briefing on child trafficking and missing here.  

Tunnel of safetyBackground and aims
ECPAT UK has identified that there are no commonly agreed safety and protection standards across the UK for the placement of children who are suspected or known to be trafficked. This inconsistency has allowed safeguarding issues to be side-lined and, in some instances, cast aside, leading to further harm to the child.

In 2004, ECPAT UK published Cause for Concern, which found that a considerable number of London boroughs had concerns about child trafficking and encountered significant problems tackling child trafficking, including inconsistent standards of care and
accommodation for child victims of trafficking.

The response to this report from across the United Kingdom indicated that child trafficking was also on the increase in locations that had smaller regional ports. This resulted in ECPAT UK’s 2007 report Missing Out: A Study of Child Trafficking in the North-West, North-East and West Midlands. This report revealed that a large percentage of child victims of trafficking accommodated by the local authority, under the Children Act 1989, had gone missing, never to be found again.

In 2009, the Home Affairs Select Committee report on human trafficking raised concerns about suspected child victims in local authority care who go missing and are never found. The Committee was particularly alarmed by accounts that traffickers may be using the “care home system for vulnerable children as holding pens for their victims until they are ready to pick them up”.

In the same year, the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, described the situation of potential child victims of trafficking going missing as “completely unacceptable”. Recent research conducted by the Child Exploitation & Online Protection centre (CEOP) has also confirmed that the number of child victims of trafficking who go missing from local authority care is significant.

In August 2009, in the light of these findings and to help support efforts to find safe  accommodation options for child victims of trafficking, ECPAT UK relaunched its Three Small Steps campaign to protect child victims of trafficking.

The campaign calls on the government and local authorities to ensure that these children are provided with safe and supported accommodation, preferably in the form of foster carers who have been trained in caring for child victims of trafficking. As part of this campaign, ECPAT UK explored the issues around what makes accommodation safe for child victims of trafficking by undertaking structured face-to-face interviews and a roundtable discussion with a range of professionals, including local authority children’s services, the police, NGOs and organisations accommodating child victims of trafficking, as well as ascertaining the views of the young people themselves.

This led to the formulation of 10 child-centred principles concerning the provision of safe accommodation for child victims and/or suspected child victims of trafficking. These principles are outlined in our On the Safe Side report, published in November 2011.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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