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Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Boards' Procedures Manual

Safeguarding Children Who May be Victims of Modern Slavery (have been Trafficked)


  1. Introduction
  2. Identification and Assessment
  3. Multi Agency Intervention
  4. National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify
  5. Trafficked Children who go Missing

1. Introduction

Modern slavery is a serious and brutal crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain. The true extent of modern slavery in the UK, and indeed globally, is unknown. In 2015, the Global Slavery Index estimated that there were 36 million victims of slavery worldwide. Research conducted in the UK in 2015 suggested there are 13,000 victims in the UK. Modern slavery, in particular human trafficking, is an international problem and victims may have entered the UK legally or illegally on forged documentation, clandestinely, or they may be British citizens living in the UK. Modern slavery includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced and compulsory labour. Exploitation takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced manual labour and domestic servitude, and victims come from all walks of life.

The Modern Slavery Act was passed on March 26th 2015. The Law focuses on tougher punishments for traffickers and better protection of modern slavery victims.

The act gives law enforcement the tools to tackle modern slavery, ensure perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims.

Trafficking is a rapidly growing global problem. Child trafficking refers to children and young people under 18 years of age. Children can be trafficked into, within and out of the UK for many reasons and for all forms of exploitation. Trafficking is a form of child abuse and requires a safeguarding / child protection response.

The definition of trafficking forms part of the Palermo Protocol, which the UK signed up to and by doing so, agree to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children:

"Trafficking of persons" means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs (UN, 2000:2)

Any child who is recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received for exploitative reasons is considered to be a victim of trafficking, whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is because it is not considered possible for children in this situation to give informed consent. Even when a child understands what has happened, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they believe to be the will of their parents or accompanying adult. It is important these children are protected too.

Children are trafficked for many reasons, including sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, labour, benefit fraud, forced marriage, begging and involvement in criminal activity such as pick pocketing, theft and working on cannabis farms. Most children are trafficked for financial gain and this can include payment from or to the child's parents; and the trafficker also receives payment from those who want to exploit the child. Trafficking is carried out by individual adults, agents and organised crime groups.

Children may be trafficked from other countries for a variety of reasons. There are a number of factors in the country of origin which might make children vulnerable to being trafficked:

  • Poverty;
  • Lack of education;
  • Discrimination;
  • Cultural attitudes;
  • Grooming;
  • Dysfunctional families;
  • Political conflict and economic transition; and
  • Inadequate local laws and regulations.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Children held in modern slavery are victims of serious crime and this will impact on their health and welfare. Traffickers and their clients commonly subject their victims to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. They will use any means to coerce and control them.

2. Identification and Assessment

All practitioners who come into contact with children in their work need to be able to recognise children who may have been victims of modern slavery. The nationality or immigration status of the child does not affect any agency's statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Identification of trafficked children may be difficult as they might not show obvious signs of distress or abuse. Some children may be unaware they have been trafficked; while other children may actively participate in hiding they have been trafficked.

The following signs may indicate children are victims of trafficking. If they arrive in the UK with adults who are not related to them or in circumstances which raise child protection concerns:

  • No evidence of parental permission for the child to travel to the UK or stay with the adult;
  • Little or no evidence of any pre-existing relationship with the adult or even a complete lack of knowledge of the accompanying adult;
  • Evidence of unsatisfactory accommodation in the UK.

The following indicators are not a definitive list and practitioners should be aware of any other unusual factors that may suggest a child might have been trafficked. These factors should be included in a wider assessment of the child's circumstances. Movement and intent to exploit have to be proven in cases of child trafficking; the distance and means of doing so are not relevant. Practitioners should be aware that movement can include moving a child from country to country, county to county or around a county, including from city to city, street to street or room to room.

At port of entry, the child may:

  • Have entered the country illegally, have no passport or means of identification or have false documentation;
  • Be unable to confirm the name and address of the person meeting them on arrival;
  • Have had their journey or visa arranged by someone other than themselves or their family;
  • Have a prepared story similar to those that other children have given;
  • Be unable or is reluctant to give details of accommodation or other personal details;
  • Is fearful of those in authority and persons they are travelling with;
  • Not be travelling with a person who has Parental Responsibility.

Whilst resident in the UK, the child:

  • Cannot produce identity documents or there is an age discrepancy;
  • Does not appear to have money but does have a mobile phone;
  • Receives unexplained / unidentified phone calls whilst in placement or temporary accommodation;
  • Has a history of missing links and unexplained moves;
  • Is required to earn a minimum amount of money every day, works in various locations, has limited amount of movement, is known to beg for money;
  • Is being cared for by adult/s who are not their parents (children in these circumstances are potentially being privately fostered) or who cannot prove they hold parental responsibility or have parents agreement;
  • Is one among a number of unrelated children found at one address;
  • Has not been registered with or attended a GP practice; has not been enrolled in school;
  • Is being moved around the city to meet new people at 'parties';
  • Is brought in and paid or forced to look after crops in a cannabis farm;
  • Appears to be working for a family as a domestic or carer;
  • Is fearful of any person in authority;
  • Is moved around in groups;
  • Lives in overcrowded home conditions with unrelated adults and children.

For children internally trafficked within the UK, indicators include:

  • Physical symptoms indicating physical or sexual assault;
  • Behaviour indicating sexual exploitation (see Children Abused Through Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Procedure);
  • Phone calls, social network contacts or letters being received by the child from adults outside the usual range of contacts;
  • The child persistently going missing; missing for long periods; returning looking well cared for despite having no known base;
  • The child possessing large amounts of money; acquiring expensive clothes/mobile phones without plausible explanation;
  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, truancy and disengagement with education;
  • Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse, and/or has contracted a sexually transmitted infection and/or has repeat negative pregnancy tests or unwanted pregnancy.

You must consider any child recruited, transported or transferred for the purposes of exploitation as a potential victim of trafficking, whether or not they are forced or deceived. It is not considered possible for children to give informed consent. Even if they understand what is happening, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they think is the will of their parents or accompanying adults.

Parents and relatives may also be involved in the exploitation of the child. Children are likely to be very loyal to their parents or carers so you must not expect them, of their own initiative, to seek protection against such people.

All agencies should also establish whether any person involved in the trafficking of children for any reason are themselves parents or carers of children. In which case an assessment of the needs of their own children, or those who they care for, should be undertaken by Children's Social Care. If the alleged trafficker works in a position of trust with children and young people the Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure must be used.

Immigration officials are trained to look out for children who are at risk of being trafficked. Any alert received from immigration services or an intermediary placement should be treated extremely seriously.

Adults accompanying potentially trafficked children may themselves have been trafficked or coerced, consideration must be given to this and referrals as vulnerable adults made as necessary.

It can be difficult to establish the age of a potential child trafficking victim. If someone's appearance very strongly suggests they are significantly over the age of 18, and this is independently verified by a higher executive officer or chief immigration officer or higher grade, you may treat them as an adult.

In all other cases the applicant must be given the benefit of the doubt and treated as a child until a careful assessment of their age is completed by the relevant Local Authority. For more information, see:

3. Multi Agency Intervention 

Prompt decisions are needed when the concerns relate to a child who may be trafficked to avoid the risk of the child being moved again. Children who have been trafficked are likely to have complex or serious needs and there will often be child protection concerns. Anyone who has a concern regarding the possible trafficking of a child must immediately consult with their designated lead for child protection and make a referral to Children's Social Care. See Making a Referral to Social Care Procedure.

Practitioners should not do anything which would heighten the risk of harm or abduction to the child, such as consulting with or informing those suspected of trafficking that a referral is being made.

Where there are concerns that a child may be or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children's Social Care will convene a Strategy Discussion / Meeting involving health, police and other relevant agencies. See Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy Discussions / Meetings.

An offence will also have been committed and the Police should also be notified; this will usually be done by Social Care following referral.

The strategy discussion / meeting should give particular consideration to ensuring the safety of the child and the investigation of organised criminal activity.

The strategy discussion/ meeting will:

  • Develop a strategy for making enquiries into the child's circumstances, including consideration of a video interview;
  • Develop a plan for the child's immediate protection, including the supervision and monitoring of arrangements (for Looked After Children this will form part of the Care Plan);
  • Agree what support the child requires, including what should be put in place to enable the child to communicate effectively and how the child and their family members are to be approached and what they will be told;
  • Whether specialist advice, support or assessment should be sought;
  • Agree how photographs and identifying details are obtained at the earliest opportunity;
  • Agree how any criminal investigations, assessments and legal action is to be co-ordinated.

Given the potentially complex nature of Section 47 Enquiries it may be appropriate to hold additional strategy discussions to ensure that informed decisions are made. If it is identified that a child may be being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the Children Abused Through Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Procedure should be followed.

Where a child is believed to have been trafficked, the assessment should be carried out immediately as the opportunity to intervene is very narrow. Many trafficked children go missing form care, often within the first 48 hours. Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any assessment takes place. The assessment should take into account any psychological or emotional impact of their experiences of a trafficked child and any consequent need for psychological or mental health support. If the age of the person is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that they are a child, they should be presumed to be a child in order to receive immediate assistance support and protection (Section 51 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015). Age assessments should not be routine and only carried out where there is significant reason to doubt the person is a child.

The adult purporting to be the child's parent, carer or sponsor should not be present at any interviews with the child, or at meetings to discuss future actions.

Approved interpreters should be used when the child's preferred language is not English; under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be the parent, guardian or relative.

Where it is found that the child is not a member of the family with whom he or she is living and is not related to another person in this county, consideration should be given to whether the child needs to be moved from the household and /or legal advice sought on making a separate application for immigration status.

Any criminal action regarding fraud, trafficking, deception and illegal entry to this county is the remit of the Police, where appropriate Children's Social Care should assist the Police in this process and refer both children and adults at risk.

4. National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify

Once safeguarding processes have been initiated, the Police or Children's Social Care should refer the child into the National Referral Mechanism using the NRM Referral Form. Agencies do not need a child's consent to do this but the child should be informed as to why the referral is being made. Signed consent is only needed from an adult if they themselves are being referred. If a referral to the NRM is required for the child and adult, Adult Safeguarding procedures apply. See Derby Safeguarding Adults Board website or Derbyshire Safeguarding Adult Board.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a victim identification and support process which is designed to make it easier for all the different agencies that could be involved in a trafficking and now modern slavery case – e.g. police, Home Office UK Visas and Immigration Directorate, Local Authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – to co-operate, to share information about potential victims and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support.

Referring children into the NRM encourages the sharing of information between agencies and can help to ensure an appropriate safeguarding response. It also helps the UK collect evidence and build an understanding of the patterns of child slavery. This helps to shape policy and can aid police investigations into modern slavery and trafficking. Nationality and immigration issues should be discussed with the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) only when the child's need for protection from harm has been addressed and should not hold up action to protect the child. There should also be liaison with the embassy / consulate for the child's nationality to help establish their identity and if appropriate, their safe return home.

Since 1 November 2015, certain frontline staff, who encounter a potential victim of modern slavery have been required to notify the Home Office under Section 52 of the Modern Slavery Act.

This requirement applies to the Police, Local Authorities, the National Crime Agency and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

For potential child victims, the duty to notify should be discharged by referring the child into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). All cases of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking must be notified to the Local Authority Lead for recording and monitoring.


  • Derby - Cohesion & Integration Manager, Derby City Council
    Telephone: 01332 293111;
  • Derbyshire - Community Safety Manager, Derbyshire County Council
    Telephone: 08456 058 058.

For more information please see Modern Slavery – Duty to Notify Factsheets and Posters (Home Office 2016).

5. Trafficked Children Who Go Missing

There are two main reasons why trafficked children go missing. Firstly, even when children are in the care of Social Care, the trafficker has control over and contact with the child and removes them under pre-arranged orders. Secondly, children go missing because they are scared of their trafficker.

Traffickers employ a range of methods to control the children, including: the removal of identity documents; threats of punishment by UK authorities if they are caught; physical or sexual violence; emotional abuse; the use of "juju" (magic /spells / witchcraft); and threats to the child's family. Children are effectively groomed to believe that if they do not go back to their traffickers, or if they disclose anything to authorities, that they or their families will suffer. Research has identified that 60 per cent of trafficked children in Local Authority care go missing.

Any child suspected as a victim of trafficking who goes missing must be considered at high risk of further trafficking and there should be an immediate strategy discussion / meeting with all professionals involved; see above. Decisions taken at the Strategy Discussion / Meeting include:

  • Referral to NRM;
  • Plan of action to identify whereabouts;
  • Alerts and plan for safe return, including safe accommodation;
  • Need for any border alerts / notifications to other local authorities.

Also see Derby and Derbyshire Runaway or Missing from Home or Care Protocol (see Documents Library, Protocols).