The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation regarding the appointment of Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs) in Scotland.
Section 11 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 places a duty on Ministers to make Regulations which will ensure guardians are appointed for children (up to age 18) who are believed to be victims of human trafficking, or who are vulnerable to becoming a victim of trafficking.
The child must have no other potential guardian in the UK who has parental rights or responsibilities over them.
CARE for Scotland has responded to the consultation and we support the Scottish Government’s plans to mirror existing arrangements for ICTGs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Currently the charity Barnardo’s runs all projects that provide ICTGs.
We are particularly calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that there is potential for children to have extended support from an ICTG.
Interim findings from England and Wales identified that over half of the children referred were 16 or 17 at the time of their referral, which means that a significant number could turn 18 before they have received a decision regarding their status as a victim of trafficking.
Without sufficient support, many of these child victims are particularly vulnerable to being re-trafficked as they transition to adulthood – therefore needing to engage with other types of services. The legislation in Northern Ireland makes provision for this by allowing an ICTG to act on behalf of a child victim after they have turned 18, up to the age of 21. We are asking the Scottish Government to make a similar provision in the final Regulations providing for the appointment of ICTGs in Scotland.
Important step forward for victims
The appointment of ICTGs would be a crucial step in supporting child victims of human trafficking in Scotland.
ICTGs play a vital role in assisting child victims of human trafficking, including safeguarding, providing emotional and practical support, and acting as their advocate in dealing with local authorities and public bodies.
They have been shown to be particularly effective in preventing victims from being re-trafficked.
An evaluation of Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (2019) in England and Wales found that of those trafficked children who went missing on referral, almost 70% of them never had contact with an ICTG.
The report commented: “ICTGs appear to have made an impact in stopping missing children from becoming invisible to public authorities, at least in the immediate aftermath of the disappearance, particularly when other services are under pressure to deal with other priorities and a child that is off their radar does not get the attention that is required”.
CARE for Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s plans and we hope they will be implemented as soon as possible.
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