Victims of modern slavery Contents


62.We are reporting on the changes we would like to see the DWP make to help the Government build the next stage of a world-leading strategy to counter modern slavery—in this instance to ensure that our identification of people sold into slavery, and our care of them, rank among the best in the world.

63.In Chapter 3 we considered what improvements we would like the DWP to make to identify potential victims more easily. In Chapter 4, we consider what improvements we would like the DWP to make to support those who have been positively confirmed. The recommendations in Chapters 3 and 4 lay the basis for mark two of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. We also consider the wider landscape of support for confirmed victims.

Treatment of potential and confirmed victims

64.The Committee heard that JCP staff required training on how to deal sensitively with people already identified as potential victims or confirmed as victims. Since January 2016 more than 10,000 Jobcentre Plus (JCP) staff have received “vulnerability training” which includes information on modern slavery and trafficking.129 CARE, however, told us:

With a total DWP staff roster of over 77,000 full-time equivalents, we remain concerned about what percentage of Jobcentre Plus staff have not received this training. We also have questions regarding the level of detailed information on trafficking contained within that general session.130

65.Samantha Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, a former First Responder, said that Jobcentre staff sometimes asked “inappropriate questions of traumatized victims”, such as why they did not have identity documents.131 She said she had also sometimes been refused access when she tried to attend interviews with her clients.132 Key Worker S told us of one client’s experience whilst trying to obtain a National Insurance number:

The adviser on the other side of the window—and it literally is one adviser, one adviser—“Oh, my God, you were trafficked. Oh my God, I’ve only seen that on the television.” Everybody could hear, and my client just seized up. She was held at gunpoint. Her case was horrific.133

Ann-Marie Douglas said:

DWP need to be dealing with people, not cases. […] There does not appear to be any appreciation of the effect their conduct has on the person and on society, because what it means is that you have wounded people in society unable to contribute effectively.134

66.This lack of understanding amongst JCP staff may inadvertently be trapping victims in the safe house system for longer than is necessary. Client A, a victim who gave evidence to us said he had fallen into the Jobcentre system and did not “know how to move on”.135 Client T, another victim, told us he went to a Jobcentre to try and find work:

I have been mistreated and I have felt like it was my fault I am there. They just put to me some questions that were not necessary and I felt really bad. […] I got angry and I said, “I don’t need anything. Even if I sleep outside and I starve, I will manage somehow to get up on my feet by myself. I don’t need any help.” That was my bad experience that I had.136

Ann-Marie Douglas said that clients experienced waiting times of up to several months to receive benefits, and could not move on from safe house support as a result.137 She told us:

There is flexibility now in the NRM for the support period to be extended, but my concern is that it has been extended to accommodate the inefficiencies of the other organisations that we engage with.138

In evidence to us, the DWP Minister apologised for the experience of any victim who had not been treated sensitively by DWP.139 He said that it was not intended to happen and that he “deeply regretted any time when that has not worked out well”.140

67.JCP staff are likely to be responsible for supporting victims once they are referred to the NRM. We heard evidence that staff do not always know how to deal with recognised victims appropriately, which can be deeply distressing for victims. It may also prevent identified victims from accessing the support they need to move on from their safe house. We recommend that all frontline DWP staff are trained in supporting victims of modern slavery.

Care pathways for confirmed victims

68.This final section of our report focusses on the wider pathway of support for individuals once they have been confirmed as victims of modern slavery. Baroness Butler-Sloss told us that, until the UK started to look after those people it officially identified as victims, “other countries are going to say, ‘Well, what are you really achieving?’”.141 The recommendations in this section should be read in conjunction with our recommendation for 12 months’ discretionary leave, with access to benefits, for confirmed victims (see paragraph 44).

69.The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings requires countries to offer a 30-day minimum reflection and recovery period for victims who have received a Reasonable Grounds decision.142 The Home Office Minister told us that the Government exceeded the support it was obliged to provide to victims by offering a 45-day reflection period.143 She explained that once a victim reached the first decision stage—a Reasonable Grounds decision—then a package of support would begin.144 This support, however, is only offered during the NRM process, when the state is determining whether someone is a victim of modern slavery. Once victims have received a CG decision they have two weeks to leave the safe house. Louise Gleich told us that after the NRM there was “nothing formally offered. There is no system”.145 This problem was highlighted by the 2013 Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review panel:

For the majority of victims the recovery and reflection period can only represent a very early and limited stage in the intricate and long term process of sustained recovery. The Panel heard frequently that individuals too often do not receive the support they need in order to rebuild their lives and increase their resilience against re-trafficking, which is a significant risk for some. At the end of the reflection period, there is often a steep cliff-edge where support ends.146

70.There are circumstances where a victim’s stay in their safe house can be extended. The Home Office Minister said “the Salvation Army can call us up at the Home Office and say, ‘For a whole variety of reasons we haven’t been able to come to a conclusive decision yet’, and we will continue to provide that support”.147 She also told us that if victims were assisting the police with prosecutions and accommodation had not been arranged for them then support could be extended.148 This ongoing support, however, appears to be restricted to victims who are still awaiting a CG decision or those assisting with police investigations.

71.There does not appear to be a clear policy on when safe house support can be extended, particularly for victims who have already received a CG decision. Baroness Butler-Sloss told us:

We hear that a great many of these safe houses are extremely good to [former victims] and they are kept, quite often, longer than the 48 hours or, indeed, the two weeks—I think it is—for a positive decision. But, of course, that is a grace and favour situation, and it is not satisfactory because it will happen in some cases and will not happen in others.149

Kate Roberts said that ongoing support was dependent on the safe house having charitable support and was “purely luck”.150

72.Unevenness of post-CG decision support was evident in the cases of some of the victims to whom we spoke. “Client M” had been in a safe house for over a year. He was severely disabled and unable to work. His key worker told us about their struggle dealing with the Home Office:

Every four weeks we have to put in an extension for Client M to stay with us. We have to do that a week in advance, so [he became] quite depressed and stressed because he does not know what is going to happen next. If we will not be able to support him, he is lost.151

“Client S”, a woman who had been subject to sexual exploitation, had received longer-term support after the NRM. The Salvation Army told us that she was “one of the fortunate ones” who had been able to access an after-care project, and that, had she been in a different part of the country, then her options would have been extremely limited.152

73.Witnesses suggested a number of different measures that would improve care for victims after the NRM. Tatiana Gren-Jardan, Victim Support and Partnerships Adviser, Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said such measures would need to sit alongside any automatic grant of discretionary leave to remain:

Automatic is ideal but I believe that, even if it is automatic, you might still have challenges […] if the UK Government recognise the person as a victim of trafficking, and give them a Conclusive Grounds decision, there has to be support attached to this decision automatically. Then we also need to continue working with the Commissioner and with other organisations, in terms of making sure that they receive what they are automatically entitled to.153

74.The Commissioner, the Salvation Army and victims themselves, said that victims of modern slavery should receive similar treatment to victims of domestic violence and have the same access to benefits. Ann-Marie Douglas told us that, after the NRM, victims were “out in the community competing with everybody else”.154 She said that additional support would better equip victims to integrate into society:

I think that even if victims of modern slavery were treated in the same way as victims of domestic violence, it would go a long way to enabling them to access services and to give them the additional time and space needed to be able to access and exist in communities on somewhere resembling a level footing.155

DWP already offers concessions to victims of domestic violence: the JSA Domestic Violence Easement and the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession.156 The Commissioner said that extension of these concessions to victims would exempt them from job seeking conditions for up to 13 weeks and grant them access to income-related benefits.

75.The Government has already recognised that victims of domestic violence need additional support because of the traumatic experiences through which they have lived. The reasons for treating domestic violence victims differently in the benefits system also apply to victims of modern slavery. DWP should introduce a Jobseeker’s Allowance easement and a concession for modern slavery victims, similar to those for victims of domestic violence.

76.Louise Gleich said that some victims may not need or want to rely on benefits and would be “desperate [to] work”.157 In these cases, she said their support should be geared towards helping them into work:

For many that was their inspiration that led them into the deception and the trafficking. But for them to access work they may need support, they may need language skills, they may need some coaching and some sort of pre-employment support.158

Employers can support victims by offering them paid work experience along with support to become job-ready. The Co-op group, a large consumer co-operative, has developed ‘Bright Future’, “a pathway to paid employment and a route to wider integration into society for victims of modern slavery”.159 The pathway involves several introductory meetings to ensure a work placement is right for the victim, a paid work placement (usually with part-time hours), a buddy and regular support meeting and a non-competitive interview at the end of the placement.160 The introduction of more Social Justice Work Coaches (see paragraphs 56 and 61) would help to signpost victims and charities to employers who offer this kind of support.

77.Hope for Justice, a charity that campaigns against modern slavery, suggested that the Government should introduce a statutory framework for the provision of care and services for victims in England, similar to the care pathway in Wales.161 In 2014, the Welsh Government developed a ‘Survivor Care Pathway’ (SCP). This was piloted in Cardiff, and then introduced across Wales by April 2015.162 Victims referred to the SCP have an individual plan that details “how wrap-around services will be provided and taken all the way through to helping survivors return to a normal life”.163 The pathway allows for national or local funding to be used to provide support after the NRM.164 A 2016 review of the effectiveness of the SCP found that over 40% of potential victims required an individual plan and that stakeholders reported a “very positive impact”:

Resultant outcomes reported by stakeholders included more potential victims/survivors accessing holistic, multi-agency support and therefore achieving positive outcomes for their safety and rebuilding their lives. They also included increased activity and success in investigating slavery-related offences.165

78.Finally, witnesses suggested that victims should not be required to leave safe houses until a support plan had been implemented.166 The Snowdrop Project, support providers for victims, said that victims would sometimes be required to leave a safe house without the financial support to pay for rent or meet the basic needs for living.167 Kate Roberts said victims should only be made to leave once:

Accommodation is secured and benefits are established […] otherwise there can be gaps where people know they will get benefits, but then it takes a few weeks for them to come through and meanwhile they are destitute.168

79.It is encouraging that the Government exceeds its treaty obligations to potential victims of modern slavery by offering a 45-day period of reflection and recovery. Unfortunately it will often take victims much longer to start putting their lives back together and there is very little structured support for confirmed victims once they have been given a Conclusive Grounds decision. The Survivor Care Pathway in Wales has demonstrated that ongoing victim support can assist with both the rebuilding of lives and the successful investigation of modern slavery offences. We recommend that all victims of modern slavery be given a personal plan which details their road to recovery and acts as a social passport to support for at least the 12 month period of discretionary leave. This should be available nationwide. Confirmed victims of modern slavery should not be required to leave safe house accommodation until a plan for their ongoing support has been implemented.

From victim to survivor

80.The Modern Slavery Act was a pioneering piece of legislation that proved the UK’s commitment to eradicate the horror of modern slavery. The Act established new protections for recognised victims but what it did not do was establish a pathway for their recovery. The journey from being a victim to becoming a survivor is unique for each individual and without the right support in place, it is a journey many individuals cannot make.

81.The Prime Minister told us that her Government was committed to doing everything possible to support victims of modern slavery. To achieve the Prime Minister’s objectives, the Government must now be thinking, as imaginatively as possible, about developing a mark two stage of policies to follow up on its world-leading 2015 Modern Slavery Act. This must start with giving meaning to a positive Conclusive Grounds decision and allowing victims a period of Discretionary Leave to start their recovery. Accompanying that recovery, each victim, once identified, should be awarded a social passport detailing the services to which they are entitled and matching their needs. The purpose of this social passport is to, as far as possible, heal the dreadful wounds that individuals feel from being slaves and to look at options for victims of modern slavery staying in this country or, if they wish, being able to return home safely. For those remaining in this country, we will aim to support victims to get back into work, to gain housing and education so as to be on a footing with other citizens of this country. We wish the Government to see this as a build-up of policies that will develop the second stage of its world-leadership in the campaign against modern slavery and ensure that victims become as healthy and as prosperous survivors as is humanly possible. For if we fail to develop a strategy for victims equal to the importance of the Act itself, we need to recall the words of Lady Butler-Sloss to the Committee: “What are you really achieving?”.

129 Written Answer to Parliamentary Question, HL3733

130 Christian Action Research and Education (VMS0006)

131 Samantha Ferrell-Schweppenstedde (VMS0014)

132 Ibid

133 Q99 (Key Worker S)

134 Q101 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

135 Ibid

136 Q32 (Client T)

137 Q43 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

138 Q51 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

139 Q168 (Damian Hinds)

140 Ibid

141 Q115 (Baroness Butler-Sloss)

142 Treaty Series No. 37 (2012), Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Convention entered into force in respect of the United Kingdom on 1 April 2009

143 Q144 (Sarah Newton)

144 Q154 (Sarah Newton)

145 Q113 (Louise Gleich)

147 Q154 (Sarah Newton)

148 Ibid

149 Q123 (Baroness Bulter-Sloss)

150 Q127 (Kate Roberts)

151 Q31 (Key Worker S)

152 Q73 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

153 Q136 (Tatiana Gren-Jardan)

154 Q47 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

155 Q45 (Ann-Marie Douglas)

157 Q113 (Louise Gleich)

158 Ibid

159 Co-op Group (VMS0034)

160 Ibid

161 Hope for Justice (VMS0016)

164 Ibid

165 Ibid

166 Human Trafficking Foundation (VMS0024)

167 The Snowdrop Project (VMS0026)

168 Q124 (Kate Roberts)

27 April 2017