“Guardianship for trafficked children would mean that every child victim of trafficking would have someone with legal authority to make decisions based on their best interests and advocate for long-term solutions. A guardian would ensure that, in the short term, child victims of trafficking received the educational, medical, practical and legal support necessitated by their history of trauma and exploitation.”
Source: ECPAT UK report; Watch Over Me (2011)
This year has seen a development of schemes to support trafficked children in a pilot spread across six local authorities, where each child victim of trafficking will be allocated an independent advocate with specialist training in who “will act as a single point of contact throughout the care and immigration process and will be responsible for promoting the child’s safety and wellbeing.”
Last month, The Children’s Society and UNICEF UK published a joint report, which highlights the need for all separated young people to have legal guardians and explains how introducing this system could save the UK money in the long term.
Dost agrees that, especially with the varying legal complexities surrounding asylum and immigration matters, age disputes and support entitlements, young people would benefit from receiving the support, long term engagement and legal expertise that independent guardians can offer. None of our young people currently have a legal guardian and although we provide as much support as we can, this is no substitute for having one single point of contact to advocate for them.
There seems no reason not to implement this support because, as the report explains in more detail, appointing guardians to separated young people will save money as it would reduce the current costs involved in supporting these young people – which can include accommodation, additional support for those aged over 18 and legal support from both central and local government.
Guardians are already being appointed to all separated young people in Scotland and other European countries, so while we applaud the UK’s introduction of advocates as a step in the right direction, we want to draw the government’s attention to this report’s findings. We hope that this analysis of the long term benefits of appointing independent legal guardians to both the vulnerable young person and the public sector will inform the detailed examination of the Modern Slavery Bill.
By Lizette Villaverde, Specialist Care Leaver Caseworker