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3.25 Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked


This chapter is based on the document ‘Safeguarding children who may have been trafficked’, non-statutory good practice guidance issued by the Department for Education and the Home Office in October 2011. This includes information about the National Referral Mechanism.

It should be read in conjunction with Safeguarding Children from Abroad Guidance.



In June 2013, this chapter was extensively updated and should be read in its entirety.


1. Introduction
2. Definitions
3. Important Information about Trafficking
4. Managing Individual Situations
4.1 Identification of Trafficked Children
4.2 Possible Indicators
4.3 Referrals
4.4 Assessment
4.5 Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiries
4.6 Multi-Agency Meeting
5. What Trafficked Children Need
6. Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin
7. Trafficked Children who are Looked After
8. Missing Children
9. Ongoing Support for the Trafficked Child
  Appendix 1: Policy and Legislation

1. Introduction

1.1 The organised crime of child trafficking into the UK has become an issue of considerable concern to all professionals with responsibility for the care and protection of children. Any form of trafficking children is an abuse. Children are coerced, deceived or forced into the control of others who seek to profit from their exploitation and suffering. Some cases involve UK-born children being trafficking within the country and outside the United Kingdom (UK). Trafficking can involve children and young people of any age, including babies.
1.2 It is essential that professionals working across social care, education, health, immigration and law enforcement develop an awareness of this activity and an ability to identify trafficked children.
1.3 This guidance provides information about trafficking, the roles and responsibilities of relevant agencies and the procedures practitioners should follow to ensure the safety and well-being of children where there is a suspicion that they have been trafficked.

2. Definitions


The definition of Trafficking contained in the ‘Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children’ (ratified by the UK in 2006) is as follows:

“Trafficking of persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of person, by means of the threat of or use

  • Of force or other forms of coercion;
  • Of abduction;
  • Of fraud;
  • Of deception;
  • Of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability;
  • Of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the Consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. 
2.2 According to the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 a child is defined as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.
2.3 Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim, whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is partly because it is not considered possible for children in this situation to give informed consent. Even when a child understands what has happened, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they believe to be the will of their parents or accompanying adults. It is important that these children are protected also.
2.4 This definition is inclusive of trafficking within the UK or trafficking of children from one country to another.

3. Important Information about Trafficking

3.1 Most children are trafficked for financial gain. This can include payment from or to the child’s parents. In most cases, the trafficker also receives payment from those wanting to exploit the child once in the UK. Trafficking is carried out by organised gangs and individual adults or agents.

Trafficked children may be used for:

  • Sexual exploitation (e.g. child sexual abuse or child abuse images;
  • Domestic servitude (e.g. domestic chores, looking after young children);
  • Labour exploitation (e.g. working in restaurant, building sites, and cleaning;
  • Enforced criminality (e.g. begging and pick pocketing, cannabis cultivation, drug dealing and trafficking. benefit fraud, illegal adoption, forced marriage, female genital mutilation;
  • Trade in human organs; and in some cases ritual killing;
  • Forced marriage – see para 4.19.

This list is not exhaustive.

*Please see the ECPAT - UK Briefing Paper on Child Trafficking - Begging and Organised Crime published in September 2010, which draws attention to the issues of children who are trafficked for the purposes of forced begging and the specific criminal offences which may have been committed in the UK by the adults concerned. It emphasises that forced child begging should be seen as a form of exploitation and more recently has been considered a form of servitude and modern slavery. It highlights this as a particular, but not exclusive, problem with Romanian adults and children.

Children may be trafficked from a number of different countries for a variety of different reasons**. Factors which can make children vulnerable to trafficking are varied and include such things as poverty, lack of education, discrimination and disadvantage, political conflict and economic transition, inadequate local laws and regulations. It is also true that whilst there is a demand for children within the UK, trafficking will continue to be a problem.

** Please also refer to ‘Safeguarding Trafficked Roma Children and Families’, a briefing published by the London Safeguarding Children Board for the attention of all LSCB's in September 2010in relation to the heightened concern regarding the risk to Roma children and families around human trafficking, which stems from a number of police operations carried out in Romania and the UK.
3.4 In order to recruit children, a variety of coercive methods are used such as abduction or kidnapping as well as more subversive ways such as the promise of education, respectable employment or a better life. It has been suggested that children have been brought in via internet transactions, foster arrangements and contracts as domestic staff, or been tricked into bogus marriage for the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. Although there is no evidence of other forms of exploitation such as ‘organ donation, or harvesting’, all agencies should remain vigilant.

Many children travel to the UK on false documents. Even those whose documents are genuine may not have access to them. One way that traffickers control children is to retain their passport and threaten children that should they escape, they will be deported.

The creation of a false identity for a child can give a trafficker direct control over every aspect of the child’s life, for example, by claiming to be a parent or guardian.
3.6 Any port of entry into the UK may be used by traffickers via air, rail and sea and as checks on main entry points are increased, evidence suggests that traffickers are using more local entry points.
3.7 There is increasing evidence that children of both UK and other citizenship are being trafficked internally within the UK for very similar reasons to those outlined above. There is evidence of teenage girls born in the UK being targeted for internal trafficking between towns and cities for sexual exploitation (see Child Sexual Exploitation Procedure).
3.8 Trafficked children are victims of serious crime and this will impact on their health and welfare. In order to coerce and control, they are commonly subject to physical abuse including use of drugs and alcohol, emotional and psychological abuse, sexual abuse and neglect as a result of a lack of care about their welfare and the need for secrecy surrounding their circumstances.

4. Managing Individual Situations


Identification of Trafficked Children

All practitioners who come into contact with children and young people in their everyday work need to be able to recognise children who have been trafficked, and be competent to act to support and protect these children from harm.

The nationality or immigration status of the child does not affect any agency’s statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Nationality and immigration issues should be discussed with the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) only when the child’s need for protection from harm has been addressed. This should not hold up action to protect the child.


Possible indicators:

Identification of trafficked children may be difficult as they might not show obvious signs of distress or abuse. Some children are unaware that they have been trafficked, while others may actively participate in hiding that they have been trafficked. This may be due to:

  • Violence, or threats of violence, towards the child and/his/her family;
  • Telling the child that they owe large sums of money and that they must work to pay this off;
  • Voodoo or witchcraft, which may be used to frighten children into thinking that they and their families will die if they tell anyone about the traffickers. See Child Abuse Linked to Spiritual and Religious Beliefs Guidance.

The following indicators are not a definitive list and are intended as a guide to be included in a wider assessment of the child’s circumstances.

At port of entry, the child; 

  • Has entered the country illegally, has no passport or means of identification or has false documentation;
  • Is unable to confirm the name and address of the person meeting them on arrival;
  • Has had their journey or visa arranged by someone other than themselves or their family;
  • Is accompanied by an adult who insists on remaining with the child at all times;
  • Is withdrawn and refuses to talk or appears afraid to talk to a person in authority;
  • Has a prepared story similar to those that other children have given;
  • Is unable or is reluctant to give details of accommodation or other personal details

Whilst resident in the UK, the child;

  • Does not appear to have money but does have a mobile phone(s), or multiple SIM cards;
  • Receives unexplained/unidentified phone calls whilst in placement / temporary accommodation;
  • Has a history of missing links and unexplained moves;
  • Is required to earn a minimum amount of money every day, works in various locations, has limited amount of movement, is known to beg for money;
  • Is being cared for by adult/s who are not their parents and the quality of the relationship between the child and their adult carers is poor;
  • Is one among a number of unrelated children found at one address;
  • Has not been registered with or attended a GP practice; has not been enrolled in school;
  • Is sometimes found at addresses associated with criminal activity e.g. Illegal substances, stolen goods, sex industry;
  • Behaviour indicating sexual exploitation.

For children internally trafficked in the UK, indicators include:

  • Physical symptoms indicating physical or sexual assault;
  • Behaviour indicating sexual exploitation;
  • Phone calls or letters being received by the child from adults outside the usual range of contacts;
  • Persistently missing; missing for long periods; returning looking well cared for despite having no known base;
  • Possession of large amounts of money; acquirsition of expensive clothes/mobile phones without plausible explanation;
  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, truancy and disengagement with education.



Any agency or individual practitioner or volunteer who has a concern regarding the possible trafficking of a child should immediately make a referral to Children’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Team or Emergency Duty Team, out of hours. See paragraph 3.1, Practitioners should not do anything which would heighten the risk of harm or abduction to the child.

Prompt decisions are needed when the concerns relate to a child who may be trafficked in order to act before the child goes missing.

Decision making following the receipt of a referral will normally follow discussion with the Police. Advice and guidance should be sought from UKHTC (UK Human Trafficking Centre). The Tactical Advisor is available 24 hours a day, see contacts.



Specific action during the Assessment of a child who is possibly trafficked should include: 

  • Seeing and speaking with the child and family members as appropriate – the adult purporting to be the child’s parent, sponsor or carer should not be present at interviews with the child, or at meetings to discuss future actions;
  • Drawing together and analysing information from a range of sources, including relevant information from the country or countries in which the child has lived. All agencies involved should request this information from their counterparts overseas. Information about who to contact can be obtained via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website or the appropriate Embassy or Consulate in London;
  • Checking all documentation held by child, the family, the referrer and other agencies. Copies of all relevant documentation should be taken and together with a photograph of the child be included in the social worker’s file.

Even if there are no apparent concerns, child welfare agencies should continue to monitor the situation until the child is appropriately settled.


Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiries

The Strategy Discussion should decide whether to conduct a joint interview with the child and, if necessary, with the family or carers. Under no circumstances should the child and their family members or carers be interviewed together.

Professional interpreters, who have been approved and DBS checked, should be used where English is not the child’s preferred language. Under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be the parent, guardian or relative. Every child should be given ample opportunity to disclose any worries away from the presence of the sponsor.


Multi-agency Meeting

On completion of a Section 47 Enquiry a meeting should be held with the social worker, their supervising manager, the referring agency as appropriate, the Police and other relevant professionals to decide on future action. Further action should not be taken until this meeting has been held and multi-agency agreement obtained to the proposed plan, including the need for a Child Protection Conference and Child Protection Plan.

Where it is found that the child is not a family member and is not related to any other person in this country, consideration should be given as 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 law enforcement action regarding fraud, trafficking, deception and illegal entry to this country is the remit of the Police and the local authority should assist in any way possible.

5. What Trafficked Children Need

Trafficked children need: 

  • Professionals to be informed and competent in matters relating to Trafficking and exploitation;
  • Someone to spend sufficient time with them to build up a level of trust;
  • Professionals who demonstrate awareness of the child’s religious and cultural needs as soon as they are known;
  • Interviewed separately, at no stage should adults purporting to be the child’s parent, sponsor or carer be present at interviews or at meetings to discuss future action;
  • Safe placements if children are victims of organised trafficking operations and for the whereabouts to be kept confidential;
  • Legal advice about their rights and immigration status;
  • Discretion and caution to be used in tracing their families;
  • Risk assessment made of the danger if he or she is repatriated;


  • Where appropriate, accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 or an application of an Interim Care Order.

6. Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin

In many cases, trafficked children apply to the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) for asylum or for humanitarian protection. For some, returning to their country of origin presents a high risk of being re-trafficked, further exploitation and abuse.

If a child does not qualify for asylum or humanitarian protection and adequate reception arrangements are in place in the country of origin, the child will usually have to return. It is important that this is handled sensitively and with assistance with reintegration which is available through voluntary return schemes.

7. Trafficked Children who are Looked After

Trafficked children identified as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) may be Accommodated by the local authority under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. See Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking children (UASC) Safeguarding Protocol.

The assessment of their needs to inform their Care Plan should include a risk assessment of how the local authority intends to protect them from any trafficker being able to re-involve the child in exploitative activities. This plan should include contingency plans to be followed if the child goes Missing.

Whilst the child is Looked After, residential and foster carers should be vigilant about, for example, waiting cars outside the premises, telephone enquiries etc.

The Local Authority should continue to share with the police any information which emerges during the placement of a child who may have been trafficked, concerning potential crimes against the child, risk to other children or relevant immigration matters.

8. Missing Children

Significant numbers of children who are categorised as UASC have also been Trafficked. Some of these children go Missing before they are properly identified as victims of Trafficking. Such cases should be urgently reported to the police. Local authorities should consider seriously the risk that a trafficked child is likely to go missing. See Joint Protocol for Safeguarding Children Missing from Home or Care in Oxfordshire.

The Missing People Helpline and the NSPCC Children Trafficking Advice and Information helpline (0808 800 5000) can offer support.

9. Ongoing Support for the Trafficked Child

The Police or the Local /authority should refer the child to the NRM (National Referral Mechanism) via UKHTC. The purpose of the NRM is to identify victims of human trafficking and ensure they receive protection and support.

Appendix 1: Policy and Legislation



International agreements and legal instruments relevant to trafficked and exploited children include

  • The Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime to the UN Convention (2000) (ratified by the UK on 6 February 2006). Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol defines trafficking as:
    1. “Trafficking of persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat of or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal or organs;
    2. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in sub-paragraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;
    3. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in sub-paragraph (a) of this article;
    4. “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.
  • Council of Europe Convention of Action against Trafficking Human Beings (2005). Article 10 of the Council of Europe Convention comments on age as follows:

    (3) When the age of the victim is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that the victim is a child, he or she shall be presumed to be a child and shall be accorded special protection measurers pending verification of his/her age;

    The official explanatory notes to the Convention state that the point of paragraph 3 is that, whilst children need special protection measures, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether someone is over or under 18. Paragraph 3 consequently requires Parties to presume that a victim is a child if there are reasons for believing that to be so and if there is uncertainty about their age. Until their age is verified, they must be given special protection measurers, in accordance with their rights as defined, in particular, in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
  • The Yokohama Global Commitment agreed at the Second World Congress on the Commercial Exploitation of Children (Yokohama 2001);
  • The United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child (United Nations 1989) its Optional protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (2000) and Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2000);
  • The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (2000);
  • International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 concerning the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (2000);
  • Declaration and Agenda for Action agreed at the First World Congress on Commercial Exploitation of Children (Stockholm, 1996).

In 2000 trafficking became enshrined in international law for the first time through the Palermo Protocol within the United Nations Protocol to prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The Protocol defines trafficking as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered ‘trafficking in person’ even if this does not involve any of the means set forth (Elsewhere in the Palermo Protocol)”



UK Legislation and guidance relevant to trafficked and exploited children includes:-

  • Children Act 1989 – Sections 17, 20, 47, 67 (Private Fostering);
  • Children Act 1989 – Parental Responsibility;
  • Children Act 2004;
  • The Nationality, immigration and Asylum Act 2002 – Sections 54 & 55 (section 55 does not apply to unaccompanied minors);
  • Sexual Offences Act 2003 – covers trafficking into, out of, or within the UK for any form of sexual offence. It also introduced new offences of abuse of children through prostitution and pornography;
  • The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc.) Act 2004 – includes the offence of trafficking for exploitation’;
  • Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013);
  • The UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking (2007);
  • The UK Action Plan on Tackling child abuse linked to faith or belief (2012).
1.4 The UK Borders Act 2007 requires the Secretary of State to publish a Code of Practice, Keeping children safe from harm. Which UK Visas and Immigration officials are required to have regard to when dealing with children in the UK identified as being at risk of harm.
1.5 The UK Borders Act 2002 will enhance current trafficking legislation in two ways. Firstly it ensures that acts of trafficking aimed at the UK and carried out overseas, irrespective of the nationality of the offender, will be liable to prosecution. Secondly, it ensures that any acts to traffic an individual which are committed after the individual has arrived in the UK but before they have passed through passport control will be liable to prosecution (for example, providing a child with a false passport after they have disembarked from the aircraft).
1.6 The Sexual Offences Act 2003, which came into force on 1 May 2004, introduced wide ranging offences covering trafficking into, out of, or within the UK for any form of sexual offence. These carry a 14 year maximum penalty. An offence of ‘trafficking for exploitation’, which covers non-sexual exploitation, including trafficking for forced labour and the removal of organs, was included in the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004.
1.7 The trafficking of children is included under the trafficking offences contained in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc., ) Act 2004. In addition, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced new offences of abuse of children through sexual exploitation and pornography which aim to protect children under the age of 18. These cover a range of offences, including paying for the sexual services of a child, for which the penalty ranges from seven years to life depending on the age of the child; and causing, facilitating or controlling the commercial sexual exploitation of a child in prostitution or pornography, for which the maximum penalty will be 14 years imprisonment.
1.8 The offences of people trafficking and the prostitution and sex sex are included as lifestyle offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which means that a conviction for these offences may be followed by an order for the payment of the proceeds of those crimes and assets may be seized. The Director of the Asset Recovery Agency also has power to recover property obtained through unlawful conduct, even if that conduct took place abroad and even if there has not been a criminal prosecution.

Relevant provision of UK legislation

Children Act 1989, Section 17


A child is defined as ‘in need’ by Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 if;

  • S/he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him/her of services; or
  • His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him/her of such services; or
  • S/he is disabled.

Children Act 1989, Section 20


Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of;

  • There being no person who has parental responsibility for him; or
  • His/her being lost or having been abandoned; or
  • The person who has been caring for him/her being prevented (whether or not permanently and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.
1.11 Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of 16 and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation.

Children Act 1989, Section 47

1.12 Where a local authority has reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm, the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

‘Harm’ is defined as:

  • Ill treatment, which includes sexual abuse, physical abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical, for example, emotional abuse;
  • Impairment of health (physical or mental); or
  • Impairment of development (physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural).
1.14 This may include seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another (section 31 of the Children Act 1989 as amended by the Adoption and Children Act 2002).

Children Act 1989, Section 67 Private Fostering

1.15 Under Section 67 of the Children Act 1989 a local authority is under a duty to satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactory safeguarded and promoted and to ensure that such advice is given to those caring for them as appears to the authority to be needed.

A privately fostered child means a child who is under the age of 16 (18 if disabled) and who is cared for, and provided with accommodation in their own home by, someone other than:

  • A parent;
  • A person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him; or
  • A relative.

A child is not a privately fostered child if the person caring for and accommodating him

  • Has done so for a period of less than 28 days; and
  • Does not intend to do so for any longer period.

A child is not a privately fostered child while:

  • He is being looked after by a local authority;
  • He is in the care of any person in premises in which any parent of his; person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him; or person who is a relative of his and who has assumed responsibility for his care, is for the time being living:
    • In accommodation provided by or on behalf of any voluntary organisation;
    • In any school in which he is receiving full-time education;
    • In any health service hospital;
    • In any care home or independent hospital;
    • In any home or institution not specified above but provided, equipped and maintained by the Secretary of State; or
    • In the care of any person in compliance with an order under section 63(1) of the Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000; or a supervision requirement within the meaning of Part II of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
  • He is liable to be detained, or subject to guardianship, under the Mental Health Act 1983; or
  • He is placed in the care of a person who proposes to adopt him under arrangements made by an adoption agency or he is a protected child.
1.19 A child who is a pupil at a school, and lives at the school during the holidays for more than two weeks, is under 16 and none of the above exemptions apply is regarded as a privately fostered child during that time.
1.20 The usual fostering limit applies to private fostering.
1.21 A carer, who is disqualified from being a private foster carer or who lives with someone else who is disqualified, cannot privately foster without the consent of the local authority. There is a right of appeal against the refusal of consent.

A local authority is empowered to prohibit a carer from being a private foster carer if they are of the opinion that:

  • The carer is not a suitable person to foster a child;
  • The premises in which the child is, or will be accommodated, are not suitable; or
  • It would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child to be, or continue to be, accommodated by that carer in those premises.
1.23 A prohibition may prevent the carer fostering anywhere in the area, restrict fostering to specific premises, or restrict fostering a particular child in those premises. There is a right of appear against the imposition of a condition.

The local authority may also impose requirements on a carer affecting:

  • The number, age and sex of the children to be fostered;
  • The standard of accommodation and equipment;
  • Health and safety arrangement; and/or
  • Specific arrangements for the children to be fostered.
1.25 The local authority must be given notice of the placement by both the parent and the carer and any other person involved in its arrangement.
1.26 The local authority must be satisfied as to the suitability of each arrangement notified to it.
1.27 Regulations prescribe the frequency that a privately fostered child must be visited.
1.28 Where a local authority is not satisfied that the welfare of a privately fostered child is being satisfactorily safeguarded or promoted it must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure the care of the child is undertaken by a parent, a holder of parental responsibility, or a relative (unless not in the interests of the child to do so) and consider exercising its functions under the Children Act 1989.

Nationally, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, Section 54

1.29 Section 54 is intended to discourage the concept of ‘benefit shopping’ within European. It is retrospective and applies to anyone who comes into the categories set out below. This is not dependent on the length of time they have been in the UK.

The Act has the effect of preventing local authorities from providing support under certain provisions, including Section 21 of the National Assistance Act and Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to:

  • Those with refugee status in another European Economic Area state;
  • Persons unlawfully present in the UK whoa re not asylum seekers, including those who have overstayed visa entry limit and those without confirmation of leave to remain;
  • Failed asylum seekers who refuse to co-operate with removal directions.
1.31 The Act does not, however, prevent the provision of support to children, or the exercise of a power of the performance of a duty to prevent a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights or rights under the European Community treaties.

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, Section 55

1.32 Section 55 applies to those who have made or are intending to make an asylum claim in the UK. It prevents UK Visas and Immigration from providing asylum support, and local authorities from providing certain support, unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person applied for asylum as soon as reasonably practicable after arrival in the UK. The section does not prevent the provision of asylum support to families with dependent children, nor does it prevent the provision of support by the Secretary of Station (via UK Visas and Immigration) to prevent a breach of human rights.
1.33 Section 55 does not apply to unaccompanied minors.
1.34 Families with minor dependents and vulnerable cases who have no yet officially lodged an asylum claim can be offered assistance with accommodation (usually overnight) and travel to the UK Visas and Immigration Asylum Screening Unit (?) by social services in order to register the lcaim with the Home Office. Families can access asylum support via the voluntary grant funded One Stop Service (?) once UK Visas and Immigration has accepted the claim and provided written confirmation of this.

Parental Responsibility

1.35 The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of ‘parental responsibility’, which means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property. This legal framework provides the starting point for considering who has established rights, responsibilities and duties towards a child.
1.36 A child whose parents’ whereabouts are not known has no access to parents for consent when making important choices about their life. Whilst the parents still have parental responsibility, they have no way of exercising it.
1.37 Children who do not have someone with parental responsibility caring them can still attend school, which are normally pragmatic in allowing the carer to make most decisions normally made by the parent.
1.38 A child in this position is entitled to health care and has a right to be registered with a GP. If there are difficulties in accessing a GP, the local Patient’s Services will assist. Emergency life-saving treatment will be given if required, however, should the child need medical treatment such as surgery or invasive treatment in a non-life threatening situation, the need for consent would become an issue and legal advice would be required.

A main route for a carer to obtain parental responsibility is through obtaining a Residential Order; however, an adult whose immigration status is unresolved cannot apply for a Child Arrangements Order.

  • Non-statutory government good practice guidance ‘Safeguarding children who may have been trafficked’ which was issued by the Department for Education and the Home Office October 2011;.

Support Services and useful Contacts

UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC)

Tel: 08447782406
Fax: 08704965534
SOCA website

  • Aims to bring a multi-agency approach to Trafficking both in and out of the UK. A key element of the work of the centre is to ensure that victims of trafficking are adequately safeguarded and protected from harm.

CEOP (Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection Centre)

Tel: 0870 000 3344
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre website

  • Was established in April 2006 to protect children from exploitation on the internet. CEOP assess the nature and scale of child Trafficking annually.

NSPCC – CTAC Child Trafficking Advice Centre

Tel: 0808 800 5000
NSPCC website

  • An advice and information service for professionals available since October 2007, a case consultancy service is also available by appointment.

Refugee Council Children’s Panel – based within the London offices of Refugee Council and provide guidance to separated children seeking asylum and to those involved in their support. The Panel employs around 14 fully support Adviser, many of whom speak the languages of the children they are working with.

Refugee Council On-Line

Tel: 0207 346 1134
Refugee Council website

  • Has 35 advisers who travel nationwide to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. It also offers a drop-in service where children can access meals, showers and clothes.


Tel: 0207 233 9887
ECPAT UK website

  • This is a UK Children’s right organisation campaign to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation;
  • See also – ECPAT briefing ‘On the Safe Side’ – Principles for the Safe Accommodation of child victims of trafficking’.


Tel: 0207 490 2388
Fax: 0207 250 1733

Afruca (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse)

Tel: 020 7704 2261
Afruca (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) website

  • Promotes the welfare of African children in the UK and is concerned about cruelty against African children.

CROP – Coalition for the Removal of Pimping

Tel: 0113 240 3040
CROP – Coalition for the Removal of Pimping website

  • A voluntary organisation working to end the sexual exploitation of children and young people by pimps and traffickers.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tel: 0207 008 1500
Foreign and Commonwealth Office website

The Missing People Helpline

Tel: 020 8392 4590
Fax: 020 8878 7752
Missing People website