New Clause 43 - Independent Child Trafficking Guardians

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 4 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 3:15, 4 Tachwedd 2021

I thank hon. Members for tabling their new clauses. They have raised important issues about the support available for child victims who have faced the most heinous crimes. Independent child trafficking guardians are an independent source of advice and support for potentially trafficked children, irrespective of nationality, and somebody who can advocate on a child’s behalf. Provision for the independent child trafficking guardian already exists in section 48 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, as does the requirement to make regulations.

The Government have developed detailed policy for the provision of this service, which is set out in the interim independent child trafficking guardians guidance, published under section 49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This guidance is kept under review through consultation with stakeholders. The correct place for the detail regarding the function of the service is in guidance, rather than, as new clause 43 suggests, the legislation itself. That enables the Government to respond flexibly to best practice and victims’ needs. The guidance is clear that acting in the child’s best interests must always be a primary consideration for the service.

New clause 43 would also ensure that an independent child trafficking guardian can continue to provide support to a child until the age of 25, to the extent that their welfare and best interests require such an appointment. Following a recommendation from the independent review of the Modern Slavery Act, the Government are currently trialling the provision of support, when appropriate, to individuals beyond the age of 18 in London, West Yorkshire and Warwickshire. An independent evaluation will look at the added value of implementing that change and consider appropriate next steps. The new clause would expand the scope of the independent child trafficking guardian service to all separated children when there are already existing provisions for separated children to receive support and assistance through other means.

I assure the Committee that the Government take their responsibility for the welfare of unaccompanied children extremely seriously. We have comprehensive statutory and policy safeguards in place for caring for and safeguarding unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK, including those who are victims of trafficking. When an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child becomes looked after by a local authority, they are entitled to the same level of support and care from their local authority as all looked-after children. Under these arrangements, a looked-after child must be provided with access to education, healthcare, legal support and accommodation. They will be allocated a social worker who will assess their individual needs and draw up a care plan that sets out how the local authority intends to respond to the full range of those needs. Our record demonstrates the Government’s determination to ensure that unaccompanied children and child victims of modern slavery are appropriately safeguarded and have the support they need.