Victims of modern slavery Contents


53.Chapter 2 of our report focused on the functioning of the National Referral Mechanism and the outcomes of the process for confirmed victims. In Chapter 3 we consider what improvements DWP could make to identify potential victims.

Identification of victims

54.Referrals of potential victims to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) are increasing each year. In 2015, 3,266 potential victims were identified and referred to the NRM, a 40 per cent increase on the year before.113 The Commissioner, however, referred to these numbers as “just the tip of the iceberg”, as there are likely to be many times that number of victims.114 The Home Office Minister said that the Home Office was working to improve the rate of identification “in every aspect”, through raising public awareness and training frontline staff.115

55.Damian Hinds MP, Minister for Employment at DWP (the DWP Minister), told us that his Department would come into contact with “a very high proportion” of victims at some point—either through benefit claims or the allocation of National Insurance numbers.116 This tallies with evidence we heard from victims. “Client A” told us that many victims eventually learnt about the Jobcentre and approached staff there for support with finding work.117

56.The DWP Minister said that the steps DWP was taking to raise awareness of modern slavery and improve staff knowledge included:

The Social Justice Work Coaches in Leeds work in outreach locations outside the Jobcentre. Victims of modern slavery are referred by staff based in Jobcentres when they make a claim for benefits. DWP said:

Social Justice Work Coaches will help [victims] navigate the claims process and ensure that any issues are resolved. This is in partnership with Leeds City Council and supporting agencies dealing with victims of domestic violence or modern slavery, plus refugees and migrant workers.

The Social Justice Work Coaches understand the barriers faced by victims and are sensitive about tailoring the claimant commitment appropriately, thus reducing the need to apply sanctions. Longer-term, their aim is to help victims to become self-sufficient by finding legitimate employment.119

The Salvation Army cited this working arrangement as an example of good practice.

57.“Client M’s” story served to emphasise the importance of training for JCP staff. “Client M” escaped from his traffickers but it took four years before someone recognised that he was a potential victim of modern slavery.120 His key worker told us:

Once Client M has managed to run away from the traffickers, after two months he managed to make a JSA [Job Seekers’ Allowance] claim. He has shared his experience of what has happened to him with the adviser there. Client M was aware that something wrong happened to him and that was not right. Someone beat him up, he had a horrible experience, but he was not aware that it is really modern slavery. When he was explaining that to the adviser in the Jobcentre, he has not picked up on that and he has not pointed him further where he will be looking for the help. Then he lost four years before someone finally offered him the help and pointed him where he should go further […] definitely the person in the Jobcentre knew what has happened to him.121

58.Ann-Marie Douglas agreed that often front-line staff were “not aware of human trafficking or modern slavery and too often do not seem interested in knowing what it means”.122 She added that whilst there was good practice in some areas, this was usually where a subcontractor organisation had found a member of DWP staff who was prepared to listen to them.123 The Salvation Army have now produced a template letter to give to JCP staff, which explains a victim’s situation and why they would not necessarily have the right documentation.124

59.Louise Gleich, Senior Policy Officer of Human Trafficking at Christian Action Research and Education, said that JCP staff should be trained to spot indicators of modern slavery, and that these needed to be tailored for different professions. She said JCP staff were trained to spot fraud but that they may not recognise that fraud could be a sign of modern slavery:

Does this person have someone with them who could be controlling them, or dictating what they say, or speaking on their behalf? What is that relationship? Are we certain that this claimant will actually be the recipient, or is somebody else involved in controlling them? That is quite specific to the Jobcentre and benefit application scenario.125

Potential indicators could be covered in training and also in a checklist to be used by staff.126 Baroness Butler-Sloss suggested that DWP develop an app that would give basic information on modern slavery and provide a phone number in order to access expert advice.127 She said, “I think we are probably moving beyond posters and it is probably an app that is a more useful thing”.128

60.DWP staff may be the first people an unidentified victim encounters when they escape slavery. We welcome efforts by the DWP to provide guidance and training on identifying victims of modern slavery. It is clear from the evidence we heard, however, that staff do not always have the knowledge required to do this effectively. This may delay the identification of potential victims, in some cases for years. We recommend that all frontline DWP staff are trained in identifying victims of modern slavery. This training should include how to spot indicators of slavery and how to report potential cases. Front line staff should also be given a checklist of indicators which they should use day-to-day.

61.The Department should extend the arrangement trialled at the Leeds Jobcentre and include Social Justice Work Coaches for Jobcentres in other areas where victims of modern slavery are prevalent. It should also seek to establish stronger links between Jobcentres and local safe houses. DWP should also exempt confirmed victims of modern slavery from benefit sanctions.

113 Ibid

114 Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Annual Report 2015–16, October 2016. The Government has estimated that the total number of potential victims in the UK is between 10,000 and 13,000.

115 Q157 (Sarah Newton)

116 Q168 (Damian Hinds)

117 Q34 (Client A)

118 Q168 and Q170 (Damian Hinds)

119 Department for Work and Pensions (VMS0035)

120 Q3 (Key Worker M)

121 Q24 and 25 (Key Worker M)

122 Q39 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

123 Q39 (Ann-Marie Douglas) Organisations subcontracted by the Salvation Army who provide safe houses and workers who support victims of modern slavery.

124 Q187 (Damian Hinds)

125 Q118 (Louise Gleich)

126 For example, see The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

127 Q120 (Baroness Butler-Sloss)

128 Ibid

27 April 2017