Upon confirmation of being a victim of modern slavery in the UK’s National Referral Mechanism, victims are swiftly expected to leave safe-house accommodation and often do not have enough time to secure access to further services and support. The Commissioner is clear that this is an unacceptable situation and is working to ensure more is done to give victims the long-term support they need.
If a potential victim receives a positive ‘conclusive grounds’ decision in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and therefore is officially recognised as a victim of modern slavery, he or she will be required to leave safe-house accommodation within 14 days. Furthermore if a negative decision is received in the NRM the individual is given only 48 hours to leave safe accommodation.
This is often not enough time to establish safe and secure pathways to mainstream services (where required). Many victims of modern slavery are therefore at risk of becoming destitute and homeless, with limited access to support and welfare benefits.
Little is known with regards to whether victims successfully reintegrate into society and gain control of their lives or whether many are failed because support ceases so abruptly. The Commissioner deems this unacceptable, and wants a new NRM system to take this into account.
In 2016 the Commissioner wrote to the Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee for Work and Pensions with recommendations to improve victims’ protection and access to mainstream support services.
This led to an inquiry by the Committee into access to welfare benefits for all victims of modern slavery, as well looking at awareness levels amongst staff in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on modern slavery issues.
In April 2017 the Committee published a report on the inquiry with strong recommendations to improve support services for modern slavery victims. The Commissioner continues to work with DWP to ensure these recommendations are implemented.