Over 550 MPs have already been contacted by the public to urge them to support the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill and to put pressure on the government to give the Bill time to be debated in parliament.
Unlike victims of modern slavery in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the law in England and Wales does not give victims a right to support. Once they are formally identified as a victim of modern slavery victims are given 14 days of support. However, after this short-term provision ends, many victims end up homeless, destitute and vulnerable to being re-trafficked.
The Government announced that they would amend this by announcing they would change the 14 days of support after victims have been identified to 45 days of support after MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee published a report calling on the Government to do more to help victims of human trafficking. The Committee heard from victims of human trafficking, anti-trafficking charities, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the police. The Committee described ‘inexcusable’ failures in the system and recommended specifically that 12 months of support for victims of modern slavery is crucial. The Government’s proposals do not adequately address the risks of homelessness, destitution and re-trafficking caused by the lack of support available for many victims following a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) decision that they have been trafficked.
The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill addresses the significant concerns raised in the report and is a logical step forward in making sure that victims needs are prioritised, and that current flaws in the system. The Bill would provide up to 12 months of support for those who have been exploited.
The campaign, Free for Good, made up of leading anti-trafficking charities and businesses recognises the urgency of the Bill and has set up a website – freeforgood.org.uk – making it easy for people to lobby their MP about the Bill.
The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill is being sponsored by Chairman of the Work & Pensions Select Committee, Labour’s Frank Field and the former Conservative shadow health minister Lord McColl. Currently the Bill is stuck in the House of Lords, despite unanimously passing its Second Reading in early September. It needs the Government to give it a timeslot to be debated in the House of Lords before it can pass to the next stage.
Without the crucial support offered by the Bill it will continue to be difficult for vulnerable victims to give evidence in court with the result that conviction rates for traffickers will remain very low. At present some figures suggest that just 1 per cent of victims of modern slavery ever see their exploiters brought to justice. This is because short term support often leaves victims of modern slavery without access to safe or secure accommodation, meaning that they are more likely to disappear, and cannot give evidence against their traffickers.
The National Crime Agency estimates that there are currently 10,000 – 13,000 victims trapped in modern slavery in the UK currently, although they have recently stated that this number is very likely just to be the tip of the iceberg.
CARE Senior Policy Officer – Human Trafficking, Louise Gleich
“Short-term support leaves those who have escaped from modern slavery with little realistic opportunity to heal from the trauma of abuse and to begin to rebuild their lives. The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill gives dignity back to victims who have been rescued out of slavery, allowing them sufficient time to heal and the support and resources for them to do that.”
“The Government should rethink its offer of 45 days of support for recognised victims of modern slavery and get behind the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill instead. By doing so they would help end the current injustice of slavery victims who fall back into the grasps of exploitation precisely because of the lack of support currently available to them.”
“The Modern Slavery Act helps bring traffickers to justice, but the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill ensures that victims are protected after their rescue, and do not end up being further exploited. There’s no point in rescuing victims of slavery if gaps in our support system mean victims end up back in the hands of their traffickers.”
“The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill is crucial to seeing an end to the devastating cycle of modern slavery victims ending up homeless whilst their traffickers go unpunished. It is therefore of utmost importance that the Government enables the Bill to make progress through Parliament”
Add your voice to the campaign – contact your MP and ask them to support the Bill simply head to freeforgood.org.uk