This is a research summary of the report: Creating Stable Futures: Human Trafficking, Participation and Outcomes for Children, a Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This research was conducted by Dr Patricia Hynes (The Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University), Dr Helen Connolly (Institute of Applied Social Research at the University of Bedfordshire) and Laura Durán with Patricia Durr, Elias Matar and Pandora Haydon (ECPAT UK).
The research followed a participatory approach and brought together three methods allowing for triangulation of data: a scoping review of UK and international academic evidence; 15 submissions from eight countries to a global call for practice evidence through ECPAT UK’s international network; and 20 participatory research workshops across three locations in the UK with 31 young people of a range of nationalities between 15 and 25 years old who have experienced trafficking or modern slavery and who had arrived in the UK.
- There is limited inclusion of children's views in research, policy, service design or delivery. In addition, a focus on achieving positive outcomes for children and young people who have experienced or are at risk of trafficking and modern slavery is currently absent from debates in the UK. The findings of this participatory research study address these gaps with the views of 31 young people detailing outcomes that are important for them and how barriers to achieving these are structural, systemic, and discriminatory.
- For the first time, young people have identified 25 outcomes as important and meaningful to them as set out according to the four General Principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – non-discrimination (Article 2), the best interests of the child (Article 3), the right to life, survival and development (Article 6) and the right to participation (Article 12). Young people highlighted being safe and feeling safe, stability and peace, having trust in professionals and systems, being believed, and listened to, freedom, equality, access to quality legal advice and interpreters as important rights-based outcomes.
- Young people have identified what they would need to see for positive and meaningful change to happen in their lives, through a Positive Outcomes Framework which is anchored in their own words, ideas and priorities. Young people described outcomes as interconnected, difficult to disaggregate, rarely linear and interlinked with the wider contexts and structures of their lives. The outcomes identified were all seen as important for achieving a positive long-term future, with individual outcomes not confined within particular timeframes.
To address the issues raised by the evidence collected in this study, the research makes several recommendations to help improve positive outcomes for children with lived experience of modern slavery:
- The UK Government and devolved administrations must ensure that all decisions about children in their individual cases and in the development of law and policy are made with their best interests as the primary consideration.
- The UK Government and devolved administrations must ensure mechanisms are in place for the meaningful participation of child victims in policies and interventions that affect them. These include providing child-friendly information, undertaking Child Rights Impact Assessments on emerging policies, building in a monitoring and impact evaluation process following the implementation of those policies and developing meaningful consultation with young people.
- The UK Government and devolved administrations must ensure that child victims of trafficking are always treated as children first and afforded their rights to the protection and care they need.
- The UK Government and devolved administrations must ensure children identified as potential victims of slavery and trafficking are promptly assigned an independent legal guardian.
- The UK Government and devolved administrations must commit to supporting positive outcomes for child victims in care, education, immigration as well as measuring the impact towards positive outcomes of the National Referral Mechanism.
- The UK Government and devolved administrations should consider operationalising the Positive Outcomes Framework in a pilot study to measure the effectiveness of current policies in achieving positive outcomes for identified child victims.
- The Home Office must ensure the immigration and asylum system does not re-traumatise children.
- The Home Office must ensure that current barriers to the recovery and achievement of positive outcomes for child victims are removed. Procedures must not place children at risk of further exploitation nor undermine their rights with an emphasis on their transition into adulthood.
- The Ministry of Justice must ensure all child victims can access a solicitor who has the expertise to properly represent them in the complex areas of immigration, criminal justice, child welfare and protection law.
- Local authority children’s services with the full support of the Department for Education and equivalents in the devolved administrations must provide quality care for migrant child victims to ensure they are afforded specialist support and the same opportunities as other young people.
- Local authority children’s services must enable psychological and physical recovery for child victims, particularly in the provision of safe accommodation and access to mental health services.
- Statutory chief officers and safeguarding partners in each local authority area must ensure they develop relationship-based practice that builds trust with children as a fundamental measure to their ability to have their voices heard and for them to feel safe.
- All professionals working with children and young people who have been identified as trafficked must ensure a positive non-discriminatory practice and use non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising language when working with them.
This project was funded through an open call for proposals to improve key areas of support for people affected by modern slavery in the UK.