Although the exact scale of child trafficking has not been rigorously tested, available data shows that the problem is alarmingly prevalent. In 2022, 7,019 people exploited as children were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as potential victims of modern slavery. This represented a 29% increase from 2021 and a more than 600% increase from 2015.
Yet, despite the increasing number of children in the NRM, evidence shows that both identification and prevention efforts for trafficked children and those at risk are failing. The characteristics of those identified as child victims of modern slavery have also radically changed since the adoption of the Modern Slavery Act, particularly as a result of county lines activities. This poses further challenges to effective prevention and identification, that have not yet been adequately addressed.
A collaboration between the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and ECPAT UK, aims to understand how children and young adults up to 25 years old are identified as victims, or at risk of, modern slavery in the UK and what works to support early identification, prevent (re)exploitation, and maintain contact. The project specifically focuses on early identification of children and young adults who are at risk of modern slavery in the UK and prevention of these practices.
The research team aims to identify what makes early identification and prevention of modern slavery in children and young people effective, and what factors make it more challenging. It will also map out initiatives that currently exist in the UK and how effective they are. The overall aim of the project is to identify how early identification and prevention can be improved for children and young people.
The research team will analyse existing academic and non-academic evidence on the identification and prevention initiatives for children and young people who are at risk or have experienced modern slavery in the UK. They will also conduct structured interviews and surveys with practitioners, providers, and officials working within modern slavery to generate new evidence on current identification and prevention initiatives. The team will also review and analyse policies developed by local authorities with respect to identification and prevention of modern slavery of children and young adults. This will be followed by ideation workshops with stakeholders and practitioners to co-create an Evaluation Framework, support interpretation of results, and co-develop recommendations with respect to identification and prevention initiatives for children and young adults with experience, or at risk, of modern slavery.
Research team: Dr Ergul Celiksoy, Dr Katarina Schwarz, Dr Ben Brewster at University of Nottingham Rights Lab, Laura Durán at ECPAT UK.
This research was funded by an open funding call on prevention of modern slavery. The Modern Slavery PEC is funded and actively supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.