The Home Office has named 23 English local authorities that will trial the use of independent advocates to support child victims of trafficking.
In a briefing from Karen Bradley, minister for modern slavery and organised crime, it was also announced that Barnardo’s will be providing the independent advocates to councils taking part in the 12-month trial.
The authorities, chosen because they have been identified as areas with high levels of child trafficking, are due to begin offering independent advocate services this month.
They are: Birmingham, Bolton, Bury, Coventry, Croydon, Derbyshire, Dudley, Kent, Lancashire, Manchester, Oldham, Oxfordshire, Rochdale, Salford, Sandwell, Solihull, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Walsall, West Sussex, Wigan and Wolverhampton.
The announcement comes after initial plans for the trial to start in July were put back two months due to a delay in finding voluntary providers to deliver the advocacy.
A Barnardo’s independent advocate will be appointed to each child trafficking victim and charged with promoting their welfare and guiding them through the social care, immigration and criminal justice systems. The advocates, who will also take the role of children’s guardians, will help reduce the risk of these children going missing and being re-trafficked.
Bradley said in the briefing that the trial will be evaluated after six months and upon completion. She also added that a clause had been inserted in the Modern Slavery Bill giving independent advocates statutory status to enable them to represent the child’s views in legal proceedings.
She added: “The clause also commits the government to lay a report before Parliament setting out the steps we will take in relation to advocates for victims of child trafficking under these powers. This report will follow the 12-month trial of the child trafficking advocates scheme.”
For more information on this and the Modern Slavery Bill got to: