Measures designed to radically improve the identification and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery have today (Thursday, October 26) been announced by Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton.
During a House of Commons debate on modern slavery, the minister unveiled reforms to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) which will see the minimum period of ‘move-on’ support for victims significantly increased, the establishment of ‘places of safety’ which will provide immediate support to potential victims, as well as up to 6 months of ‘drop-in’ services, developed in partnership with The Salvation Army, for those transitioning out of the NRM.
The government will also roll out nationally the provision of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates, who will provide specialist support and act in the best interests of trafficked children. The service is currently running in Wales, Hampshire and Greater Manchester.
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton said:
Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society.
This government has taken world-leading action to tackle this abhorrent crime, and we have been clear that the welfare victims and potential victims is at the heart of everything we do.
The reforms announced today represent a major step forward in improving the support and protection provided to victims, helping them reintegrate into society after their unimaginable ordeal and protecting them from being retrafficked.
I would like to thank the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, and a number of NGOs with whom we have worked to develop these reforms.
Increased victim support
Under the reforms, the length of time confirmed victims have access to ‘move-on’ support, such as ongoing accommodation, counselling, expert advice and advocacy, will be extended from 14 days to 45 days – helping to create a smoother transition out of care. This will be in addition to the minimum 45 days of support victims already receive before a final decision is reached, increasing the total period to at least 90 days.
Government-funded ‘places of safety’ will be created so that adult victims leaving immediate situations of exploitation can be given assistance and advice for up to 3 days before deciding on whether to enter the NRM.
The changes follow a huge increase in NRM referrals, reflecting greater public awareness after the introduction of the world-leading Modern Slavery Act 2015. Some 3,804 people were referred in 2016 compared to 714 in 2010. In 2016, 1,440 adult potential victims entered government-funded care.
Other reforms announced today include:
- ‘Drop-in’ services for all confirmed victims for up to 6 months after leaving support to aid the transition, provided by The Salvation Army
- Work with local authorities to come up with best practice for victims to transition into a community and access local services
- Aligning subsistence rates provided to victims of modern slavery to those received by asylum seekers
The announcement follows a series of measures agreed by the Prime Minister’s Modern Slavery Taskforce last week, which included:
- a single, expert unit which will be created in the Home Office to handle all cases referred from front line staff and to make decisions about whether somebody is a victim of modern slavery. This will replace the current case management units in the National Crime Agency and UK Visas and Immigration and will be separate from the immigration system
- introducing an independent panel of experts to review all negative decisions, adding significantly to the scrutiny such cases currently receive
- rolling-out a new digital system to support the NRM process, making it easier for those on the frontline to refer victims for support and enabling data to be captured and analysed to better aid prevention and law enforcement.
Following the announcement, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland said:
Victims of modern slavery have experienced ruthless abuse, violence and exploitation. They require support that meets their individual needs, and the current NRM is not fit to meet this purpose. This is why I have been calling for radical reform of the system, and I gladly welcome the positive changes announced by the Minister today.
I am delighted to see specialist advocates in place for child victims nationally, as well as access to immediate and move on support for adults – something I have specifically called for as they are so vital to the recovery process.
These changes mark a significant step forward in the fight against modern slavery, and I will continue to work with the Government and stakeholders as we work towards a system that keeps victims at the centre.
National Crime Agency Director of Vulnerabilities command Will Kerr said:
Modern slavery is a crime which seeks out vulnerable people and which needs a victim centred response. The improvements to the NRM will help the NCA and its partners identify and safeguard potential victims of trafficking, ensuring those victims get the best support and care.
A spokesperson for The Salvation Army said:
The Salvation Army welcomes the measures announced today to enhance support for victims of modern slavery through reforms to the National Referral Mechanism. We are pleased that government has taken account of the evidence to inform a need for an extension to the length of statutory support available to victims and the requirement to provide access to places of safety immediately on their escape from exploitation, as this can be when they are at their most vulnerable.
These are further positive developments for the people supported by The Salvation Army and its partners and a demonstration that government has taken account of the continuous feedback provided, during the past 6 years over which we have been coordinating care for victims of modern slavery on behalf of the government.