New campaign urges Government to stop stalling on measures to help slavery victims
A new campaign will urge the Government to “stop stalling” on measures to help modern day slavery victims.
The Campaign, Free For Good, wants the Government to support legislation that will guarantee accommodation, financial and other support to the slavery victims for up to 12 months, instead of the current limit of just two weeks after the decision confirming that they have been exploited.
The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, which is sponsored by Chairman of the Work & Pensions Select Committee, Labour’s Frank Field and the former Conservative shadow health minister Lord McColl is currently stuck in the House of Lords. Despite the bill unanimously passing its’ Second Reading in early September, there is still no date for the Committee Stage.
The Campaign, which is backed by a number of leading charities and organisations including the Co-op, say that the new law would allow the police and social services to offer “meaningful” help and assistance to the victims of slavery, many of whom have been trafficked from abroad. They believe it would also encourage more of the victims to give evidence against their captors, addressing the appallingly low conviction rates for traffickers, with some figures suggesting just 1 per cent of victims ever see their exploiters brought to justice.
Since the Second Reading of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill the Government has announced plans to offer 45 days of support to victims to help their recovery once it is confirmed by the National Referral Mechanism that they have been trafficked.
Although Free For Good welcomes the additional 45 days, the campaign is very clear that it is insufficient to address the challenges victims face and that the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill remains as important as ever.
A Campaign spokesperson said, “Many victims do not begin to process the trauma they have experienced until much later than 45 days after the decision about their victim status is made. To feel able to begin this psychological recovery many victims need to have certainty that they will have somewhere to stay and food to eat for a sustained period of time.”
“Moreover, the additional 45 days will not remove the risk of destitution and re-trafficking. At present those victims who do not have the right to stay in the UK beyond the 45 days, will need to seek special discretionary leave to remain. However, many applications are not processed within 45 days. All too often when the 45 days is over, destitution and re-trafficking will be a significant risk while victims wait for a decision about their future without support.”
“The Government has said it wants to lead the world in efforts to address modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Act is strong in many respects but as the Work and Pensions Select Committee Report states, it “did not secure a pathway for [victims’] recovery”. The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill will offer that pathway by putting in place the Committee’s recommendation of 12 months support and residence for victims. The Government has the opportunity to showcase its commitment to best practice victim care legislation to the world at the London Commonwealth summit in April if it adopts the Modern Slavery(Victim Support) Bill. We very much hope that the Government will seize this opportunity with both hands.”
Free For Good will highlight the latest UK slavery statistics published by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which identified 1,322 potential victims. The figures covering July to September 2017 showed an increase of around 10 per cent from the previous three months.
Campaigners will say this is a problem that covers all parts of the country with the Metropolitan Police area referring 416 potential victims to the NCA, the West Midlands 137, Bedfordshire 61 and Hampshire 24. There were just five areas in England & Wales that did not refer any victims.
Free For Good will launch a new website, which has a range of tools for the public to find out more about the Bill, how those concerned can get involved and how they can support this ground-breaking campaign, including lobbying the Government. It will let visitors contact their MP about the Bill and highlights the impact this Bill will have on current victims of modern slavery.
The Campaign will conclude by saying that long-term support and help from specialist support workers is vital for victims of modern slavery to begin to rebuild their lives and reintegrate back into society.
Without this support recent studies have shown that victims often end up homeless and destitute after leaving a safehouse, with estimates that over a third (34 per cent) are re-trafficked as a result. This Bill offers guaranteed support, a safety net for victims meaning they are less likely to fall through the cracks.
Expert bodies including The Council of Europe’s official monitoring body for the convention on combating trafficking (GRETA), the US State Department and The Work and Pensions Select Committee have recommended establishing victim support in law and providing longer term assistance. It is also backed by many of the UK’s leading anti-trafficking charities, who see first-hand why such a Bill is needed here in England and Wales.
Recent Home Office estimates show that there are 10,000 – 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK alone, although the National Crime Agency warns that this number is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
In order to tackle modern slavery we must start with supporting victims to live free for good.
CARE Chief Executive Nola Leach
“If victims do not have a guarantee of sustained support they are unlikely to feel safe and secure enough to be give evidence to police investigations. Cases have been reported of victims becoming homeless after leaving the safe house and police being unable to trace them to take their testimony, leaving the victims at severe risk of being re-trafficked and their abusers going away unpunished.”
Hope for Justice Chief Executive Ben Cooley
“Our advocacy work with victims of modern slavery shows just how difficult it can be for survivors to access basic support such as housing and benefits even at the point of leaving a safehouse. For victims to overcome their traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives they need the security of a stable place to live, money to buy food and access to other support services. Lord McColl’s Bill will ensure that modern slavery victims get this basic help, and receive a support worker and a care plan for up to 12 months to help them make that journey to survivor and a life that is free for good.”
Human Trafficking Foundation Head of Office Kate Roberts
“Research has found that the current options for housing and support in the post safe house period are not sufficient for many survivors of modern slavery. The current situation leaves survivors with little realistic opportunity to rebuild their lives, with some ending up destitute, vulnerable to further harm or even being re- exploited. This Bill will do much to put an end to this injustice.”
Snowdrop Project Founder and Director Lara Bundock
“We have seen from experience that without support, victims of modern slavery are vulnerable to homelessness, isolation, substance misuse, abusive relationships, depression and further exploitation. We believe that recovery from human trafficking is a long-term process that often requires committed, consistent and knowledgeable support, which is why the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill is vital to helping rehabilitate victims of slavery.”
Notes to the editor:
For more information go to: www.freeforgood.org.uk – The UK’s campaign for supporting victims of slavery to live free for good.
Link to the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2017-2019/0004/18004.pdf
There are approximately 1000 confirmed victims of modern slavery in the UK each year. The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would make a huge difference to the lives of people who have suffered appalling abuse in our country but with limited cost implications given that 1000 people per annum is a relatively small number.
SPONSORS OF THE BILL:
• Lord McColl
Lord McColl of Dulwich is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. For more than a decade he has been raising issues of modern slavery and human trafficking in the House of Lords, pushing for greater protections and support for victims, including during development of the Modern Slavery Act 2015
• Frank Field MP
Labour MP Frank Field will be sponsoring the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill when it reaches the House of Commons. Frank Field is chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee which in April 2017 called for victims of modern slavery to be granted one year’s leave to remain with access to support. Mr Field has campaigned in parliament on the issue of modern slavery for many years and chaired the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review for the Government as part of the development of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The Free for Good campaign is currently supported by CARE, Snowdrop Project, Human Trafficking Foundation, Hope for Justice, AFRUCA, Anti-Slavery International KALAYAAN, Arise Foundation, Ashiana Sheffield, Freedom United and the Co-op.
CARE seeks to uphold human dignity and to support the most vulnerable people in society. We raise awareness of human trafficking and work for changes in the law and Government policies across the UK Parliaments and Assemblies. Our work on human trafficking focuses on these areas: tackling the demand for human trafficking for sexual exploitation, ensuring that people who have survived exploitation are given adequate care and protection and the provision of special support for child victims.
About Hope For Justice
Hope for Justice exists to bring an end to modern slavery by rescuing victims, restoring lives, and reforming society. Our specialist teams work closely with police to identify victims of modern slavery, build bridges of trust with them and remove them from exploitation and into safety. We work with victims to overcome trauma and rebuild their lives. We offer tailored restorative care initiatives and offer support to meet vital needs, including survivor-centred aftercare.
The Human Trafficking Foundation (HTF) is a UK-based charity which grew out of the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking. HTF was created to support and add value to the work of the many charities and agencies operating to combat human trafficking in the UK.
About Snowdrop Project
Snowdrop Project is a charity based in Sheffield, which provides long-term support to empower survivors of human trafficking to make a fresh start. We work with our clients on an individual basis to ensure their needs are met. The team offers services including advocacy, trauma informed therapy, community activities, a house renovation service and pathways to employment and education.