woman in prison

Role of victim support crucial to prosecuting modern slavery successfully

A new report has found that we cannot effectively address trafficking nor convict traffickers if we do not look after the victims.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was hailed as ground-breaking, making the UK a global leader in fighting modern day slavery and has led to the Act being replicated across the world, most notably in Australia this week.

Not enough support

However, there is one area of the Act which falls woefully short. That is, its provision for victim support. Currently confirmed victims of trafficking receive up to 45 days of support. This is set to go up to 90 days next year, but still is not enough for a victim to begin processing their trauma and start to rebuild their lives. Charities that work on the frontline and also victims of trafficking themselves have shared that such meagre support has left them homeless, destitute and at risk of being retrafficked. 

The research was carried out by a solicitor who has represented many victims of modern slavery  and compares the UK’s support offer to that provided by the US, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Key findings

The report makes clear that lack of support for trafficking survivors leaves them too afraid to give evidence against those who have exploited them. It recommends that that a victim's access to support workers be extended to ensure stability and pastoral care. 

Legal experts, the police and anti-trafficking charities have all endorsed the report. 

This report goes some way to explaining this, evidencing what the police have now been saying for some time, that if victims are not looked after and do not feel safe, they either won’t come forward in the first place, they are too frightened to disclose and give evidence, or they disappear." Vernon Coaker MP, Co-Chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficking and Modern Slavery.

The number of prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking and modern slavery will remain low unless action is taken. In the 2017/18 financial year there were 239 suspects charged with modern slavery offences and just 185 people convicted. There are an estimated 136,000 victims of human trafficking currently in the UK. 

Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill

There is a Bill in the House of Commons that would enshrine long term support for victims of trafficking in law and meet many of the report’s recommendations. The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would give victims a year of support, a personal support plan, the help of a support worker and the right to remain in the UK for that year of support. 

However, the Bill is at serious risk of running out of time. What is needed is for the Government to back the Bill. It already has cross-party support and is backed by the campaign group Free for Good, which is made up of leading anti-trafficking charities and businesses and which CARE is a part of. Therefore, it would not be a tough Bill for the Government to pass in Parliament. Doing so would not only help victims to recover but as this report states, could lead to higher numbers of prosecutions for human trafficking.

Find out more

Read more about our work on human trafficking here. 

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