My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate as I have a long-standing interest in human trafficking. Some 200 years since the abolition of slavery, it is depressing that there is a continuing need to confront this evil. I very much appreciate the efforts made by the Government to address this problem, and I support the human trafficking strategy launched last July.
The strategy focused on raising awareness of trafficking and ensuring victims are safeguarded and protected. We need to redouble our efforts to help victims: this needs a local, as well as a national, focus. I commend the work of local anti-trafficking groups. We cannot hope to overcome this crime unless we are successful in raising the profile among communities.
I wish to speak about the effects of trafficking on children and young people who are its victims. In doing so, I congratulate Professor Jenny Pearce of the University of Bedfordshire and the ongoing commitment of the NSPCC. Professor Pearce’s research highlights considerable variations in practitioners’ understanding of the meaning of trafficking and problems with the delivery of child-centred practice.
Trafficked young people are especially vulnerable, and I welcome the guidance relating to child trafficking issued last October. Those responsible for their welfare, as well as those tasked with law enforcement, need to be equipped to respond fully to their specific, individual needs. We need a system whereby there is adequate signposting to national agencies and professionals providing appropriate support. We must ensure that vulnerable children are protected. Their safety and welfare ought to be prioritised. I look forward to the Minister’s response about what more we can do.