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Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership 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, personal or financial 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; this is believed to be a huge underestimate of actual number of victims. 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, forced and coerced marriage, domestic servitude and forced and compulsory labour. It can take a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced manual labour and domestic servitude, debt bondage. It is important to note that victims come from all walks of life.

The Modern Slavery Act (2015) categorises modern slavery offences of Slavery, Servitude and Forced or Compulsory Labour and Human Trafficking.

The act gives relevant agencies the tools to tackle modern slavery, ensure potential offenders as well as offenders can receive suitable penalties and sentencing for these crimes and enhance support and protection for victims.

Modern slavery and trafficking is a rapidly growing global problem and refers to adults as well as children and young people under 18 years of age. Trafficking is one component of modern slavery and is a form of child abuse requiring a safeguarding / child protection response. Children can be trafficked into, within and out of the UK for many reasons and for all forms of exploitation.

Any child who is considered a victim of modern slavery may also be a victim of trafficking.

Modern slavery includes a number of forms of trafficking, 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.

There are a number of factors which may make children more vulnerable to modern slavery:

  • Poverty;
  • Lack of education/Learning Disability;
  • Discrimination;
  • Cultural attitudes;
  • Grooming;
  • Dysfunctional families;
  • Private Fostering arrangements;
  • Political conflict and economic transition; and
  • Inadequate local laws and regulations.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Children who are victims of modern slavery are victims of serious crime and this will impact on their health and welfare. Exploiter's 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 may be difficult, as children might not show obvious signs of exploitation. See Children at Risk of Exploitation (CRE) Assessment Toolkit (Documents Library, Assessment Tools) for indicators of exploitation. Some children may be unaware they have been exploited; while other children may appear to participate in hiding that they have been exploited, however they must be considered as a victim.

See also Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Children at Risk of Exploitation Strategy 2018-2021 (Documents Library, Local Stratergies).

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. They may also be 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.

All agencies should also establish whether any person involved in the exploitation 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 exploiter works in a position of trust with children and young people the Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure must be used.

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

3. Multi Agency Intervention 

Prompt decisions are needed when any concerns relate to a child who may be exploited to avoid the risk of the child being moved again. Children who have been exploited are likely to have complex or serious needs and there will often be child protection concerns. See Derby City and Derbyshire Thresholds document (Documents Library, Guidance Documents). Anyone who has a concern regarding the possible exploitation 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 exploitation 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 such as education providers, early years and voluntary sector services. In addition, input from the National Counter Trafficking Service, Independent Child Trafficking Service (ICTS) and Independent Child Trafficking Advocates must be sought for expert advice and consultation. See Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy Discussions / Meetings.

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 views and their circumstances, if there are any other potential victims as well as a clear assessment of any persons or places which pose a risk; or
  • Develop a plan for the child's immediate protection and / or a safety plan, including the supervision and monitoring of arrangements (for Looked After Children this will form part of the Care Plan);
  • Consider what would be an appropriate safe placement particularly for 16 and 17 year old young people;
  • 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 other specialist advice, support or assessment should be sought, including the local authority for Child at Risk of Exploitation Lead;
  • 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, including consideration of a video interview.

See also Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery (DfE)

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 or criminal exploitation, the Children at Risk of Exploitation (CRE) Procedure should be followed. If the exploitation may involve one or more abusers and/or a number of related and/or unrelated children, the Investigating Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure must 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 from 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.

For more information, see:

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 they are 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 must refer the child firstly to the National Counter Trafficking Service, Independent Child Trafficking Service (ICTS) facilitated by Barnardo's, for Independent Child Trafficking Advocacy.

ICTS contact and referral form:

For guidance on roles and responsibilities of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs), see Interim Guidance for the three Independent Child Trafficking Advocates Early Adopter Sites – Greater Manchester, Wales and Hampshire. In addition to the above, a referral should be made into the National Referral Mechanism using the NRM Referral Digital Referral System: Report Modern Slavery. 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
    Tel: 01332 293 111;
  • Derbyshire - Community Safety Manager, Derbyshire County Council
    Tel: 01629 538 951.

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 practitioners involved. 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).