Criminalized, Not Listened to, or Believed: Trafficked Young People’s Experiences of Services in England


Alinka Gearon, PhD, MRes, BSc | September 20 | 10:15-11:15 AM

Topic: International, Research | Knowledge Level: Intermediate, Advanced | Location: TBD

The presentation reports findings from an innovative study with young people who were trafficked as children into and within England. Creative methods of music and dance were utilized to access, engage young people and build trust. In-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups were held with 20 young people aged 15-21. This qualitative research examined lived experiences of trafficking and how children experience services within the child trafficking framework in England. Although a victim-centered approach is espoused in child trafficking policy, this research reveals how the binary opposite is experienced by children and young people in front-line services. Young people experienced immigration-driven and prosecution-focused practice and were treated as complicit in their situations. They reported how they were not listened to, not believed and further blamed by practitioners for their situations. Young people were criminalized, either as illegal immigrants or prosecuted for trafficking related crimes, creating further harm. The findings strongly support depoliticizing child trafficking policy away from a criminal justice approach towards policy and practice that centers on children and young people’s welfare needs and protection. An urgent cultural shift is required in practitioners believing young people when disclosing abuse. This relates to wider concerns of disbelief in children’s accounts of abuse in organized child sexual abuse scandals across England. The key message for social work education and practice is that Children Services need to realign their practice with migrant children as anti-discriminatory and reaffirm social work’s role in upholding children’s rights to equal access to protection.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Share research findings from listening to children how they experience services

·  Provide an English perspective of how child trafficking policy and practice is experienced

·  Discuss implications of findings on practice

·  Explore what we can learn from similarities/differences between the English and American anti-trafficking contexts

About the Presenter