House of Lords urges greater support for victims of trafficking

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Lord McColl speaking in the House of Lords

New legislation is needed to improve the support for victims of trafficking said many Peers in the House of Lords this afternoon.

The comments were made during the Second Reading of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill proposed by long-time anti-trafficking advocate Lord McColl of Dulwich.

The Bill will amend the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to put a guaranteed right of support to victims during a reflection and recovery period into law (as is already the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland).  The Bill also creates a duty to provide victims with support in this country for a further 12 months.  This provision is designed to give victims the opportunity to recover more fully from their exploitation and develop skills, connections and personal resilience to make them less vulnerable to the risks of re-trafficking.

Lord McColl told Peers:

“Frontline agencies are advising us that the current system is not meeting our objectives to recover victims and protect them from further exploitation [and have] highlighted cases where confirmed victims are destitute and sleeping on the streets, refused access to welfare benefits or housing or have engaged in prostitution because they were not entitled to any form of support.

“Ending support just 14 days after the National Referral Mechanism decision without establishing access to services and suitable housing for the following period puts victims at risk and interrupts their recovery”.

More than 20 other Peers from all parties spoke in support of the Bill.  They spoke movingly of the tragic circumstances some victims have found themselves in after leaving safe house accommodation at the end of the initial reflection and recovery period. 

The Lord Bishop of Derby particularly emphasised the need to help victims to “recover” from their terrible ordeal, not simply to remove them to a place of safety for a short period.

Others highlighted the way that well-supported victims are more able to act as witnesses, giving police vital information that can help see traffickers jailed for their crimes.  

Responding to the debate the Minister, Baroness Williams of Trafford confirmed the Government’s commitment to tackling modern slavery and indicated that proposed reforms of the NRM will be published soon.  She did however say the Government was not persuaded of the need to give all victims a year’s residency in the UK to receive longer support saying that any longer-term provisions should be determined on a case by case basis.

CARE is pleased to support Lord McColl’s Bill and we warmly welcome all the positive comments made by Peers today.  We look forward to the Government’s forthcoming proposals and urge them to adopt Lord McColl’s Bill to improve the care provided to victims.

Lord McColl’s Bill now proceeds to Committee Stage.

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