Victims of modern slavery Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The status of recognised victims

1.We welcome the Government’s decision to review and reform the National Referral Mechanism. It is a complex system that should offer support to potential victims when they are at their most vulnerable. We heard serious concerns about the lack of legal advice to victims prior to their consent to referral, the absence of an appeals process and the NRM’s inability properly to respond to the needs of victims. An evaluation of any proposed new system is beyond the scope of this inquiry. It would, however, benefit from scrutiny by a select committee. We will refer the evidence we received on the NRM to the Home Affairs Committee for consideration. (Paragraph 16)

2.The decision not to record and collate data on victims who have been re-trafficked and processed multiple times through the National Referral Mechanism is a serious oversight. This framework was designed to identify victims and help them to recover. For those victims who have been subject to re-trafficking the system has clearly failed. While we are pleased to hear that the Home Office Minister wishes to investigate such cases, it is troubling that the Home Office needs to ask us for this information. (Paragraph 21)

3.We recommend that any reform to the National Referral Mechanism include the recording and collecting of instances where victims have been processed through the framework more than once. This should be implemented as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 21)

4.We recommend that local police forces should be required to pass any information on potential re-trafficking to the Home Office police lead on modern slavery. The Home Office should report on these figures annually, including any trends. (Paragraph 22)

5.Treating confirmed victims of modern slavery differently depending on their nationality has created a confusing landscape that is poorly understood by professionals or victims themselves. As a result some victims face destitution or even a return to their enslavers because they have no ongoing access to support. The Home Office Minister claimed that allowing victims a year’s leave to remain with some entitlements would create a ‘pull factor’. This claim makes little sense and is unsubstantiated by evidence. (Paragraph 44)

6.We recommend that all confirmed victims of modern slavery be given at least one year’s leave to remain with the same recourse to benefits and services as asylum seekers are granted. This would allow time for victims to receive advice and support, and give them time to plan their next steps. This would not prevent those who wish to return home from doing so. We set out details on what specific support should go with an automatic grant of 12 months discretionary leave to remain in chapter 2 of this report. (Paragraph 44)

7.We recommend that confirmed victims of modern slavery be exempted from the conditions of the Habitual Residence Test. It is absurd to expect victims of modern slavery to be able to prove they have been living and working in the UK if they have been enslaved. (Paragraph 45)

8.The number of successful prosecutions against individuals guilty of modern slavery offences is on an upwards trend. This is encouraging and testament to both the importance of the Modern Slavery Act and the work of the police and courts, but the numbers are still hugely disappointing. The police are not as active as they should be on this front. There are thousands of victims that have not come forward, potentially because they know that they will face limited support. Those that do and are asked to give evidence against their enslavers can, owing to insufficient support, end up destitute as a result. This can result in the inexcusable scenario that abusers go free because their victims are not supported in giving evidence against them. This is indefensible on policy grounds. It is also indefensible on moral grounds. (Paragraph 52)

Identification

9.We will refer the poor conviction rate to the Home Affairs Select Committee. We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions undertake an urgent review of the benefit support available to victims who are assisting the police with investigations. Financial support for those victims should be available as soon as they receive a positive Conclusive Grounds decision. (Paragraph 52)

10.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. (Paragraph 60)

11.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. (Paragraph 60)

12.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. (Paragraph 61)

Care

13.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. (Paragraph 67)

14.We recommend that all frontline DWP staff are trained in supporting victims of modern slavery. (Paragraph 67)

15.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. (Paragraph 75)

16.DWP should introduce a Jobseeker’s Allowance easement and a concession for modern slavery victims, similar to those for victims of domestic violence. (Paragraph 75)

17.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. (Paragraph 79)

18.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. (Paragraph 79)

19.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. (Paragraph 80)

20.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?”. (Paragraph 81)





27 April 2017