The University of Stirling is launching a new research project to investigate the impact of support services on the recovery of children and young people trafficked in to the UK.
The study is the first of its kind to specifically look at the long-term needs and choices of children with lived experience of trafficking and to study the effectiveness of the support services they receive.
Led by Dr Maggie Grant, the project is funded by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (the Modern Slavery PEC) through the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Dr Grant said: “Up until now, previous research has focused on the immediate needs of children at the point of their arrival in the UK as unaccompanied minors, or shortly after they are identified as a victim of trafficking. Once children and young people move beyond this stage, the spotlight on them recedes. This lack of evidence is restricting policy and practice efforts to plan and provide effective services.
“We are interested in what happens next for these young people and whether the support offered is sustainable, effective and will help survivors with their recovery over the long term.
“Without appropriate child-centred, actionable policies and interventions that are effective throughout a child's future, there may be a continued threat of being drawn back into exploitative circumstances.”
The team - which includes social work expert Dr Paul Rigby and criminologists Dr Maria Fotopoulou and Professor Margaret Malloch – will interview survivors of modern slavery who have made their homes in the UK, as well as professionals who support them - including police officers, social workers, educators and foster carers.
With the help of the young people involved, the project will create a set of new resources for professionals including case studies and animations to inform of the different experiences of those recovering from exploitation and what helps or hinders children and young people's capacity to thrive at different stages.
Dr Grant added: “We have a huge amount to learn from these young people and this project will allow us to address important questions about what happens longer-term for children affected by trafficking to not just survive but re-build their lives with a sense of hope for the future.”
Ensuring better outcomes for children and young people who survive human trafficking is a major and urgent challenge facing the UK. Across the UK over 3,000 unaccompanied children claimed asylum in the year to March 2019 (Home Office 2019) and events in summer 2020 around channel crossings indicate upwards of 400 new arrivals in Kent alone.
Data from the Scottish Guardianship Service suggests that approximately 40% of unaccompanied children evidence indicators of trafficking and exploitation.