The government has today released a new policy on support for confirmed victims of modern slavery.
The policy (called the “Recovery Needs Assessment”) was produced after a court case that finished in June 2019. In that case the government agreed the current system for supporting people who had been accepted as victims of modern slavery did not work properly and a new system would be designed. The government agreed that support should be given to a victim of modern slavery in line with their needs and not stopped after a set amount of time.
The new policy tells us how the government will decide if a person that they accept is a victim of modern slavery should carry on getting accommodation, basic financial subsistence and the help of a support worker. You can read the policy here.
Some key things to know:
Who will decide if support will carry on? - This decision will be taken by the government.
Who can ask for support to carry on? - Only people who work for the government to provide support. A victim cannot ask themselves. Neither can their lawyer or anyone else working with the victim, for example, a charity that is not working under the government contract to provide support.
When do you ask? - After the government decides that someone is definitely a victim of modern slavery, they can carry on getting support for 45 days. If they need more then their support worker, working under the government contract to provide support, can ask for an extension as soon as someone has been identified as a victim.
How long will it take to get a decision back from the government? - This is not clear. The policy says that if a decision is not made in the 45 days the victim will keep getting support until a decision is made and transition arrangements are in place.
How do you ask? - The victim’s support worker under the government contract completes a needs assessment form. This is sent to the main supplier of support under the government contract that the support provider works for to check, then sent upwards to the government. Supporting evidence supplied should be dated within the last 3 calendar months.
How long can support be extended for? - Up to a maximum of 6 months in one go.
What if the request is refused? - The government’s contracted support provider can make a new request for support when “material new evidence/information comes to light, which was not available at the time of the original recommendation”. There appears to be no ground of challenge if the government has got the decision wrong.
What we think
We welcome the government’s shift towards a consideration of victim needs when thinking about support. It remains to be seen how it will work in practice but the policy as drafted raises concerns. It appears to take an overly narrow view of victim needs and not be wholly victim centred. Victims are also denied direct access to the application process and have no right of appeal if a decision is wrongly made. The government’s approach can only be lawful if it is read in line with its duties under the Anti Trafficking Convention. The government must take into consideration how to prevent a person who has survived trafficking being re-exploited in the future and genuinely address all the needs they have to help them rebuild their lives. The provision of support and accommodation is a critical part of this. Survivors’ welfare has to be at the centre of decision making. The policy also raises questions that we welcome clarification on, for example, the right of a victim to go back into support if needs come up after they have exited and how they can access this process.