An international conference, organised in partnership by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the NSPCC’s Child Trafficking and Advice Centre (CTAC), was held today in Antrim. The event, entitled ‘Improving Safeguarding for Children Being Moved across Borders including those at risk of Trafficking/Slavery’, brought together a wide range of agencies who work with or come into contact with children who have been moved including social workers, police, immigration officers, health professionals and NGOs from across the UK and Europe. Kevin Hyland, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, delivered the keynote address at the event.
Delegates examined the risks faced by children who are being moved across borders and the risks of child trafficking and modern slavery. They reviewed best practice and examined current systems of protection and support available to them. Leading experts and delegates collaborated on workshops to gain insight of how working across agencies and international borders will improve safeguarding for these vulnerable children and young people.
Chief Social Work Officer of Social Services in Northern Ireland, Sean Holland, said, “As social workers we provide support and protection to children and young people in a wide range of circumstances but it is difficult to imagine circumstances more harmful and traumatic for a child or young person than those of having been trafficked and forced into a life of exploitation and slavery.
“We have as much obligation, under International Conventions and Domestic Legislation, to ensure the safeguarding and protection of these children and young people and the protection and promotion of their rights, as we do in respect of any indigenous child or young person”.
Beth Hurley, Children’s Services Practitioner with the NSPCC CTAC team, said, “We are delighted to be in Northern Ireland to host this conference. Over the past five years we have worked in partnership with the Health and Social Care Board to improve practice around child trafficking and the safeguarding of children who are being moved across borders. Not all children begin their journeys being trafficked but are vulnerable to being trafficked as they are without the protective networks of parents, families and friends. We have invited experts from across Europe to share their knowledge and experiences to help us prevent children from slipping through the net.”
Over the last five years, 66 separated and trafficked children have been referred by the police, the 5 Health and Social Care Trusts and various agencies to the Health and Social Care Board with children coming from countries including Zimbabawe, China and Sudan.
NSPCC’s CTAC service is known for its expertise in providing advice and training to professionals across the UK on Child Trafficking. For more information about the work of the CTAC service visit www.nspcc.org.uk/CTAC. The Health and Social Care Board and NSPCC jointly established the Multi-Agency Regional Practice Network for Separated Children. CTAC and the HSCB have been commended by the UK’s Anti-slavery Commissioner for their good practice in this area. The two organisations have a long standing professional partnership and commitment to practice development and service improvement.