New service aims to support child victims of trafficking

It will support children who victims of human trafficking, and who are separated from their families and home countries. Credit: UTV

A new service is being launched to support children in Northern Ireland who are victims of human trafficking, or separated from their families.

Barnardo's NI will run the new Independent Guardian Service.

It will work across the region to help separated and trafficked children who have been referred to the five Health and Social Care Trusts.

Over the last three years, 13 separated children have been referred to trusts on average.

Lynda Wilson from Barnardos said the new service will provide specialist knowledge to safeguard child victims of human trafficking.

She explained: “Sadly there are increasing numbers of separated and trafficked children in Northern Ireland.

“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.

“Our Independent Guardians will be qualified to assist with legal advice and support on immigration and asylum matters concerning these children.”

The service is being introduced under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act and is funded by the Health Social Care Board.

Deirdre Coyle from the board said: “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.”

She said the service will seek to to assist, represent and support such children by listening to their views.

It will also liaise closely with other agencies that “fulfil key functions in the arrangements for their immediate and future care and protection”, she added.

Ms Coyle went on: “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.”