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Leading Anti-Trafficking Charities Call on Government to Act as Peers and Public Back New Modern Slavery Bill to Fill Gaps in Victim Support

Today Frank Field MP & Lord McColl of Dulwich’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill passed the Lords with no amendments and now heads to the House of Commons, highlighting the gaps in the current victim support system and putting pressure on the Government

Free for Good Press Office
Date: 09/05/2018
Embargo: 10/05/2018 13:00 

Recent evidence shows the current landscape for tackling modern slavery in England and Wales leaves a lot to be desired:

  • Only 6% of the modern slavery crimes recorded in the year to March 2017 led to summonses or charges.
  • Repeated evidence from front line charities and a highly critical report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee showed that confirmed victims of modern slavery are ending up homeless and at risk of re-trafficking because of a lack of support
  • An inquiry by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee has concluded that the Government lacks the data and systems to properly understand the crime of modern slavery, its victims and its perpetrators.

A Free for Good Spokesperson said “Modern slavery is a crime that feeds on people’s vulnerability.  Instead of making people less vulnerable, the current system offers only short-term respite leaving many victims vulnerable at the end of the process, fuelling a cycle of re-trafficking. This is why we back the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, because supporting victims over a longer period is key to breaking the cycle of vulnerability that underpins modern slavery.”

The Public Accounts Committee expressed concern about the anxiety caused to potential victims in the current National Referral Mechanism (NRM) by the instability of their situation. The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill will provide some stability by offering 12 months of support to confirmed victims of modern slavery at the end of the NRM process. This will give time for victims to begin their mental, physical and social recovery through healthcare, psychological treatment, work experience or education creating a firm foundation for an independent future free from exploitation.

If we give victims a longer, stable period of support it is also likely we will see an increase in victims helping with police investigations and more traffickers convicted as a result. Victims are one of the best sources of intelligence for modern slavery investigations, but if a victim is worried about being homeless or how to feed themselves they are not likely to be able to engage with the police or court processes.

A Free for Good Spokesperson continued: “This Bill gives new Home Secretary Sajid Javid an opportunity to start a new phase in the Government’s anti-slavery strategy. The Government must put victims at the heart of Government policy on modern slavery to break the cycle of vulnerability that feeds exploitation. We hope the Government will commit to supporting this vital piece of legislation.”

During its passage through the Lords, the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill has received strong support from Peers of all parties and has completed its final stage unamended. Now it moves across to the House of Commons, where the government can choose to support it.

Free for Good is a campaign made up of leading anti-trafficking charities and businesses, many of whom work on the front line with victims and see first-hand the desperate need for this Bill.

The public have also shown their overwhelming support for the Bill by lobbying their MP through the Free for Good campaign, with practically all MPs having been contacted by constituents.

As the Bill enters the Commons the public are urged to contact their MPs via https://freeforgood.org.uk and ask them to back the Bill.

Rt. Hon Frank Field MP, Chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and sponsor of the Bill in the House of Commons

“I am delighted that the Bill has completed its passage through the Lords and look forward to championing it in the Commons. We know the government feels a strong moral commitment to oppose slavery. We now need them to support action which, by supporting victims better, will lead to more successful prosecutions.”

Lord McColl, who introduced the Bill in the House of Lords

“I introduced the Bill after repeated evidence showed that current support is failing victims of modern slavery in Britain today. Peers in the House of Lords have passed the Bill, it is now up to the Government to do the right thing and throw its weight behind it.”

Chief Executive of Snowdrop Project, Lara Bundock

“This Bill is championed by so many anti-trafficking charities because we know from the experience of the victims we work with that without significant changes in law modern slavery victims will continue to end up homeless and destitute. This Bill will do much to put an end to this injustice.”

Co-op Policy and Campaigns Director, Paul Gerrard

“We have found that getting back into work can be a really positive part of a recovery process for victims of modern slavery, but to do so they need permission to work again, the security of a stable place to live and access to other support services – all of which the Bill provides. If the Government chose to back this Bill it would have a huge and vital impact, improving the lives of all survivors of modern slavery across England and Wales.”

Head of Office Human Trafficking Foundation, Kate Roberts

‘This Bill gives Government the opportunity to back simple changes to the law and guarantee all victims a basic period of recovery from their horrendous ordeals and a chance to rebuild their lives. Three years following the passing of the Modern Slavery Act it is time to make sure that victims have the opportunity to break the cycle of their exploitation and be free for good’.

Chief Executive of CARE, Nola Leach

“Reducing modern slavery has to start with putting the needs of victims first. Conviction rates will remain low and perpetrators will be free to continue to carry out this crime with near impunity unless we give victims the support they need to escape a cycle of exploitation and help the police bring the traffickers to justice.”

 

Ends

Notes to the Editors

For more information please contact Rachael Adams on 020 7227 4731 / 07851 153 693 or press@freeforgood.org.uk

Comments from other organisations are available.

Link to the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2017-2019/0004/18004.pdf

For more information go to: https://www.freeforgood.org.uk/ – The UK’s campaign for the  Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill

The Third Reading of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill will take place in the House of Lords tomorrow from 11am. You can watch online at: https://parliamentlive.tv/Lords

The Free for Good campaign is currently supported by CARESnowdrop ProjectHuman Trafficking FoundationHope for JusticeAFRUCAAnti-Slavery International KALAYAANArise FoundationAshiana SheffieldFreedom UnitedCo-opJericho FoundationNorthern CollegeYou Can Free UsThe Sophie Hayes FoundationIJM UKCaritasNAWOTribe FoundationRAMFELThe Adavu ProjectOdanadi and The British Retail Consortium.

Link to the Public Accounts Committee report: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/886/886.pdf

Link to The Work and Pensions Committee report on Victims of Modern Slavery https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2015/report-victims-modern-slavery-16-17/

Information on current support for victims of modern slavery and the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

At present when the National Referral Mechanism confirms that someone has been a victim of modern slavery this triggers the end of the support package after just 14 more days. Last October the Government promised to increase this move on period to 45 days, but this is not nearly adequate to help a victim of modern slavery come to terms with their trauma and begin the process of rebuilding their lives.  For many victims having no right to support or to stay in the UK leaves them homeless and destitute making them vulnerable to false promises from traffickers and at risk of re-trafficking.  The Public Accounts Committee noted in a report last week that the Home Office “does not know what happens to victims after they have gone through the system and whether, for example, they have been trafficked again.”

Rachael Adams
Free for Good Press Office
https://freeforgood.org.uk
Twitter: @freeforgooduk

Direct Line: 020 7227 4731
Mobile: 07851 153693