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1. Guidance Statement

This guidance aims to outline the circumstances of children who may be particularly vulnerable and set guidelines for identifying hidden children.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children depends on effective joint working between agencies and professionals that have different roles and expertise which includes the sharing of information.

2. Introduction

Revelations of the widespread abuse and neglect of children living away from home have done much to raise awareness of the particular vulnerability of these children. Concern for the safety of children living away from home has to be put in the context of attention to the overall developmental needs of such children, and a concern for the best possible outcomes for their health and development, (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013).

The issue of ‘hidden’ children is a concern for all professionals whether within their locality there is an airport, port or the locality is designated as a dispersal area. These ‘hidden’ children can include the following:

Migrant Children:

Over recent years the number of migrant children in the UK has increased for a variety of reasons, including the expansion of the global economy and incidents of war and conflict.

Child victims of trafficking:

The exploitation of children through force, coercion, threat and the use of deception and human rights abuses such as debt bondage, deprivation of liberty and lack of control over one’s labour. Exploitation occurs through prostitution and other types of sexual exploitation and through labour exploitation. It includes the movement of children across borders and movement and exploitation within borders.

For further information, see Safeguarding Children who may have been trafficked Guidance

Definition of Trafficking:

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abductions, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs’.

Article 3 (c) states that:

‘The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in person”. – (Protocol to Prevent, Suppress & Punish Trafficking Persons, Especially Women& Children – UN Convention 2003)

A child is anyone under the age of 18 years of age. It is irrelevant whether the child has apparently consented to being brought to the destination. This definition is also inclusive of internal trafficking or trafficking of children within borders.

The UK is a destination country for trafficked children and young people. These children can be used for;

  • Domestic service;
  • Labour exploitation i.e. Cannabis factories;
  • Benefit fraud;
  • Sexual exploitation.

It has been suggested that children have been brought in via internet transactions, foster arrangements and contracts as domestic staff, or been tricked into a bogus marriage for the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. Although there is no evidence of other forms of exploitation such as ‘organ donation, or harvesting’, all agencies should remain vigilant.

Private Fostering:

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately, without the involvement of a local authority for the care of a child under the age of 16 years, or under 18 years if disabled, by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more.

Privately fostered children are a diverse and sometimes vulnerable group. This includes children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities; asylum seeking and refugee children; teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives; and language students living with host families. Some children brought to the UK under private fostering arrangements are being trafficked as domestic servants or for benefit fraud. Apart from concerns about trafficking, children in these arrangements are very vulnerable to isolation and exploitation and abuse.

Child abuse linked to belief in “possession” or “witchcraft”, or in other ways related to spiritual or religious belief:

This is not confined to particular countries, cultures or religions, nor is it confined to new immigrant communities. The number of known cases is small but children involved can suffer damage to their physical and mental health, capacity to learn, ability to form relationships and self-esteem, (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013)

For further information, see Child Abuse Linked to a Belief in Spirit Possession Guidance

3. Process for Joint Working

3.1 A Hidden Child may be identified by or within :

  • Education setting;
  • Health;
  • Police;
  • Housing;
  • Other.

3.2 Indicators for those at risk of exploitation:

The child:

  • Is being cared for by adult/s who are not the child’s parents;
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and the carers is not good;
  • May go missing or missing for periods of time;
  • Has a history with missing links and unexplained moves;
  • There is multi use of the house where they live which may indicate that it is a sorting house;
  • Is driven around by an older male or ‘boyfriend’;
  • Hints at threats to family in their country of origin;
  • Presents as a vulnerable child or young person who is ‘befriended’;
  • Has false hopes of improvement in their lives;
  • Is withdrawn and refuses to talk or is hostile and defensive;
  • Shows signs of sexual behaviour or language or signs of Physical Abuse or Sexual Abuse and/or has contracted a sexually transmitted infection or is pregnant;
  • Has limited freedom of movement;
  • Works in various locations;
  • Has not been registered with or attended a GP practice or been enrolled in school.

3.3 Key Contacts for Information Sharing:

See Practice Guidance – Information Sharing; in the Making Referrals to Children’s Social Care Chapter.

3.4 Referral to other Agencies:

Once a child has been identified and assessed as being a Child in Need or a child at risk of harm, then a referral to the Referral and Assessment Team is required in line with Making Referrals to Children’s Social Care Procedure.

3.5 A Strategy Discussion/Meeting will be held as required

  • Criminal;
  • Child in need;
  • Child protection;
  • No further action.

See Action to be Taken where a child is at risk of Significant Harm Procedure: Strategy Discussion/Meetings.

3.6 Assessments

  • Initial Assessment;
  • The pre Common Assessment Framework (CAF) checklist will be the tool first used to identify children at risk or who are unable to achieve the Every Child Matters five outcomes;
  • The full CAF will be completed by the relevant agency to further identify the child’s needs;
  • Core Assessment in accordance with the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.

4. References

N.B. the Border and Immigration Agency are currently consulting on a “code of practice for keeping children safe”


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