We are very aware of the fact that once in the United Kingdom victims can be taken anywhere. Increasingly, criminal gangs operating across borders are being replicated by home grown gangs operating within the UK. This is leading to a situation where victims, mostly but not exclusively, young and vulnerable girls, are being groomed to be trafficked around the country.
There is therefore a need for networks of interested parties to support the work of the Police and border authorities across the country. I decided to supplement my work as Vice Chair of the APPG by getting involved in the West Midlands Regional Anti Trafficking Network.
The RAT comprises representatives from law enforcement and legal services, local authorities, health care, education, social care providers and myself as an MP. The RAT works closely with the Regional Missing, Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Group, Regional Safeguarding Network and the UK Borders Agency’s regional team. The RAT has acknowledged the benefit of having regional accommodation for victims. When an individual is identified as a potential victim of trafficking then UKBA liaise with Sandwell Women’s Aid and they can be cared for under the remit of the same regional team.
Social workers are often not aware of the risk of sexual exploitation. The Department of Education have issued guidance on safeguarding children who may have been trafficked. At the moment best estimates in the West Midlands indicate that 75% of safeguarding boards are not following this guidance so there is work for the RAT to do with social work and local authority representatives.
Meanwhile there are regular events across the West Midlands to raise awareness. The Children’s Society is very ac-tive and Aston University Business School is involved in a programme to combat labour trafficking which is a growing problem in the region.