Police chief tells social workers to grasp the reality of human trafficking

Social workers and students at BASW Cymru’s WSWD event in Cardiff Bay have heard how the increasingly widespread problem of human trafficking can only be tackled by integrated thinking and a detailed understanding of the culture that surrounds it.

Huw Watkins, detective inspector for the intelligence department at Gwent Police, emphasised to attendees the need to be alert to the multiple factors involved in human trafficking cases.

“No one agency can ever be enough – every duty team must remember to separate victims from one another and be aware of issues of culture and religion and the culture of criminality surrounding the case.

“Victims will often have been told that any authority figure will be of no use to them, and that complaints may land them in more trouble in the long term.”

Mr Watkins, who is currently working on a guidance document to be issued by Gwent Police, spoke of “cultures where life is cheap”, saying: “In many areas, such as West Africa, one less mouth is just one less mouth to feed. A trafficked child has many uses to a criminal gang – some criminals see a correlation between the numbers of children working for them and their status within the criminal underworld; others use them purely for financial gain, with talented pickpockets thought to be worth up to ten thousand euros over the course of a year.”

Acknowledging that Welsh authorities are “moving in the right direction”, Mr Watkins spoke of his hope that social workers would continue to raise awareness of this issue within their communities.

Attendees at the event also heard from BASW Cymru chair Keith Drury, who emphasised the need to keep social work high on the agenda following the launch of the Social Services (Wales) Bill.

BASW Cymru committee member Neeta Baicher talked about the powerful work being done by the charity Diverse Cymru to promote equality and independent living for black and minority ethnic families throughout Wales. Describing the impact this social work-led service has had on her family, a mother whose children have used the Diverse Cymru service, also present, praised the organisation for its role in increasing the confidence and sense of community felt by her children.