A new regional service has been recently launched to support children in Northern Ireland who are victims of human trafficking and children who are separated from their families and their home countries. Funded by the Health Social Care Board, the new Independent Guardian Service will be delivered by Barnardo’s NI. The service has been introduced in Statute Law under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (NI) Act 2015.
Deirdre Coyle, Commissioning Lead at the Health and Social Care Board Commissioning Lead, said: “It is my pleasure to welcome today’s launch of the new Independent Guardian Service for Northern Ireland which Barnardo’s has been appointed to provide. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act (NI) 2015, introduced to provide protection from traffickers and tackle modern slavery and exploitation, included a duty for the Health and Social Care Board to establish an independent guardian service for Northern Ireland.
“Independent Guardians will undertake a crucial role for children who are victims or potential victims of trafficking and those who are separated. These children often face great anxiety and uncertainty about their futures and must also navigate a number of unfamiliar processes to reach durable solutions about their future. The regional Independent Guardian Service is intended to strengthen the safeguarding arrangements to such children and specifically to assist, represent and support such children by listening to their views and making representation to, and liaising closely with, all other agencies that fulfil key functions in the arrangements for their immediate and future care and protection.
“As this new service embeds, the Health and Social Care Board and Barnardo’s NI are committed to ensuring timely, coordinated and collaborative action and decision making which promotes the welfare of this group of vulnerable children and serves their best interests”.
Lynda Wilson, Director at Barnardo’s NI, said: “We are very pleased to be providing this service for some of the most vulnerable children and young people. Sadly there are increasing numbers of separated and trafficked children in Northern Ireland and trying to navigate through the legal processes can be an overwhelming experience for them especially when they are so young, are on their own and often have limited to no English. Some of the countries these children are coming from include Sudan, Somalia, Albania and China. Our Independent Guardians will be qualified to assist with legal advice and support on immigration and asylum matters concerning these children. The aim of the Independent Guardian Service is to provide specialist knowledge to safeguard and promote the welfare of child victims of human trafficking and always act in the best interest of the child.”
Barnardo’s NI Independent Guardian Service will work across Northern Ireland supporting separated and trafficked children who have been referred to the five Health and Social Care Trusts.