Changes in decision processes impacts modern slavery victims
published on 16 Jun 2023
Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army said:
“The Salvation Army is greatly concerned about the impact of recent changes to decision-making processes about who can access specialist support as a victim of modern slavery.
“Since changes were implemented on 30th January 2023 we have noticed a significant rise in the number of people being refused support. We believe many of these would have been accepted under previous guidance.
“Home Office published data shows that in the first quarter of 2023 the percentage of people accepted as victims of modern slavery dropped from 85% to 58%. This 27% drop is likely to be understated as the changes in guidance only came into place part way through the period reported.
“People are referred to our First Responder Service where there is evidence they may have been tricked, trapped and traded by criminals for profit. We help them explain to the authorities what has happened to them so they can receive support to recover.
“As a First Responder Organisation we are urgently seeking clarity around the new decision-making parameters so we can advocate for these vulnerable people and give the authorities the information they need to make the right decisions about each case.
“Most of our First Responder team are highly trained volunteers, operating through a service funded from our own charitable resources and which is distinct from any contracted Government support. The recent changes are placing untenable burdens on First Responders and dramatically altering the role they perform. They are now being forced to operate as case workers and build a file of objective evidence in order to assist people who need and should be entitled to support.
“As we made clear when these changes were first proposed in the Nationalities and Borders Act (2022) and in additional changes to statutory guidance, we believe the requirement for a potential victim to provide objective evidence about their exploitation is unreasonable.
“Many people escaping exploitation come forward without possessions or documentation because they have fled to safety in fear of their lives. Any documents they may have had are often confiscated or destroyed by the person exploiting them.
“Even when people do have documents, such as medical referral papers or identity cards, it is neither appropriate nor fair to expect them to understand decision-making processes or how to navigate bureaucratic systems without support. This is made even harder when English is not their first language.
“As a result of the new processes, extremely vulnerable people, who are desperate - in some cases destitute - and at high risk of falling back into the hands of their traffickers, are remaining in jeopardy much longer as they wait to find out if they will receive support. Clear signs of exploitation are not considered sufficient and, having undergone such an arduous process, many more people are ultimately being turned away.”