The Durham Diocesan Synod passed a motion calling on the Government to ensure trafficked minors are given the support and protection they need.
Although the National Referral Mechanism is still experiencing an increase in referrals, the Government should be held to account for its responsibility to protect trafficked minors.
In 2018, Durham Diocese and Bishop Paul petitioned the government to have a young man, Stephen, given leave to remain after he was rescued from human trafficking as a child. In 2021, the government plans to receive 10,695 referrals for human trafficking, of which 43.5% are children.
The Clewer Initiative has helped to raise awareness of modern slavery in the Church, and is a fantastic resource for churches.
The UK has done much to better protect victims of modern slavery and has created an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to advise the UK government.
The motion provides support for children who have been trafficked, but there may be some challenges in accessing support.
For a child to be identified as a victim of modern slavery, they must first go through the National Referral Mechanism.
Children with longer custodial sentences may not disclose information required for their decision within a time limit, or may be subject to child criminal exploitation.
The Government still haven't updated the Working Together To Safeguard Children Statutory Guidance (2018). Many local authorities have issued their own guidance, and organisations such as the Children's Society are supporting local authorities in their response to such an issue.
HMG introduced the Modern Slavery Act which increased punishments for perpetrators of modern slavery, introduced a defence for victims of modern slavery, required businesses above a certain size to disclose their efforts against modern slavery each year, and required Regional Practice Co-ordinators.
In 2020, 10,613 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the National Referral Mechanism, and of these just under half were children. The most common type of exploitation for adults was labour exploitation, and for minors was criminal exploitation.
The NRM provides support to victims pending a conclusive grounds decision, but there is a significant backlog of cases awaiting assessment due to the lack of good mental health support, legal advice, backlog in decision making and lack of remedy for victims.
There are different forms of support for trafficked minors, with different levels of support for British nationals and those trafficked from abroad. Nevertheless, the work of Independent Child Trafficking Guardians and Regional Practice Co-Ordinators is important.
Child victims should also benefit from the Section 45 Defence, which provides a defence for trafficking victims in criminal proceedings. Children should also be supported through multi agency support provided through faith groups and schools.
There are questions about how to provide support for trafficked minors, who often struggle to receive state based financial support and are at risk of being re-exploited.
Lords Spiritual have supported amendments to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill to create a statutory definition of Child Criminal Exploitation, but it is not clear whether these will prove successful. The Nationality and Borders Bill proposes a number of changes to modern slavery legislation.