A trial of the use of specialist, independent advocates to support child victims of trafficking began in September 2014.
There is strong evidence that trafficked children often face being trafficked again, even after being rescued. So, for a trial period of 12 months, Barnardo’s are providing an advocacy service in England, in which children are individually allocated advocates to promote their welfare and guide them through the social care, immigration and criminal justice systems.
The University of Bedfordshire’s independent evaluation team of these Child Trafficking Advocates (CTA) trials has published largely positive interim findings after four and a half months.
Its report states that ‘the advocates are largely perceived … to be doing well. Evidence of advocates’ positive influence in individual cases is beginning to emerge’.
However, the report notes that ‘the rate of allocation of cases to the CTA trial is lower than expected’ and that the referrals of most children are taking longer than they should.
‘The responses from local authorities have been largely positive and there have been examples of collaboration between Barnardo’s and local authorities. However there have been a small number of cases where advocates have reported resistance from local authorities’.
The interim evaluation report raises the possibility that advocates should have legal powers and authority. This would help them to be more effective and would improve cooperation with local authorities.
The final evaluation will have particular focus on referral mechanisms and the legal status and qualifications of advocates. It will also compare the experience of children with advocates to those without them.