Child modern slavery is complex, often hidden, an extreme violation of children’s protection and their rights. It affects thousands of children in the UK: in 2022, 41% of people referred to authorities as potential victims of trafficking - over 7,000 – were for those who claimed they were exploited as children.
Support for children who have been trafficked has been changing over the years. In England and Wales, the 2015 Modern Slavery Act mandated the Independent Child Trafficking Guardianship (ICTG) Service. As of 2021, the service was available in two thirds of local authorities and is currently delivered by the UK children’s charity Barnardo’s.
This service aims to provide individualised and child-centred support for all children affected by modern slavery. The Guardians are professionals who advocate for individual children and must act in their best interests to help them navigate around the complex systems of criminal justice, immigration and social care.
Whilst there have been several independent evaluations of the ICTG Service to date, these have either not extensively engaged children themselves or have done so through more ‘traditional’ methods like interviews. In addition, previous evaluations have focused on a mainly descriptive analysis of quantitative data and have not included qualitative data from Barnardo’s case management system. Combined, this presents an important and current evidence gap.
This nine-month Fellowship, funded by the Modern Slavery PEC and co-developed in close collaboration with Barnardo’s, is focused on evaluating the support for children with lived experience of modern slavery in England and Wales, delivered through the guardianship service. The research will scope the nature of modern slavery affecting children in England and Wales and explore the longer-term protection, safeguarding, well-being and recovery related outcomes for children supported by the Barnardo’s ICTG Service. It will also investigate how services and policies might better support the recovery of children with lived experience of modern slavery.
In practical terms, the research will include:
- Meaningfully engaging children supported by Barnardo’s ICTG service through creative participatory approaches to share their views including through ‘Q-methodology’, a qualitative methodology with a statistical component involving participants sorting and prioritising a set of statements around a central question or theme (‘provocation’),
- Focus group discussions with teams of practitioners from different regions and in different roles across the ICTG service,
- Analysing anonymised case files from the Barnardo’s ICTG Service to draw out outcomes data and
- Analysis of Home Office and Barnardo’s data sets on outcomes for children, as well as how these relate to the nature and duration of ICTG support and a range of other factors including gender, nationality, type of exploitation, location, and age.
Specific to this Modern Slavery PEC Fellowship is the requirement to enable and support the participation of young people in the research process itself. A Young People’s Advisory Group has been established, with young people from the Service engaging in testing and piloting methods, analysing results, and disseminating findings, including to their peers.
This Fellowship started on 27 March this year and will be completed by the end of 2023.
Fellow: Dr Anna Skeels, Research Fellow, SPARK, Cardiff University.
This research was funded by an open fellowship funding call on support for children with lived experience of modern slavery, co-developed with Barnardo’s. The Modern Slavery PEC is funded and actively supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.