Report urges greater focus on survivor resilience to help break cycle of trafficking and increase justice

A recent report published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Justice and Care, called ‘A Path to Freedom and Justice: a new vision for supporting victims of modern slavery’ has called for better collaboration between Government and anti-slavery organisations in order to improve survivor care, and increase conviction rates of traffickers.

The report, which had input from multiple survivor groups and anti-slavery organisations, including City Hearts, looked at how survivors can be better supported in the short-term, but also how a focus on long-term recovery could help them rebuild their lives more effectively.

The report urged organisations to focus not just on the immediate material needs of survivors, but also concentrate on their wellbeing and resilience in order to build their confidence and independence.  This would not only make them less vulnerable to re-trafficking, but also make them more likely to engage with criminal investigations to get justice. 

There are an estimated 100,000 victims of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK, yet only 56 offenders were convicted in 2020 for slavery crimes.

Supporting survivors of human trafficking costs the UK vast amounts of money, with one estimate in the report, saying that picking up the pieces of these criminal gangs could cost the country over £32 billion a year.

So as well as the moral imperative to help survivors seek justice, there is clearly an economical incentive to breaking up the trafficking gangs and discouraging future exploitation with heavier sentencing of perpetrators. 

‘Good care for the exploited and abused is not a luxury extra – it unlocks progress against organised crime. Those exploited and abused on British soil, whether UK citizens or foreign nationals, deserve care and a chance to recover. They also often crave justice. Failure to support survivors increases re-trafficking rates and hinders our ability to dismantle the criminal networks responsible because their vital intelligence is lost.’ (Report quote)

The report made 24 recommendations for a new support system that would focus on survivors as victims of crime, getting them justice, and paying more attention to their long-term recovery prospects. 

It also recommends providing survivors with an immediate safe place to stay while their NRM claim goes ahead, helping them navigate the justice system, and focussing on their emotional well-being.

The report also recommends creating legislation that would guarantee at least 12 months of support in the UK for someone confirmed as a victim, and new measures to tackle the bureaucratic backlog in decision making, which is making people feel like their life is on hold.

‘Too often victims of modern slavery are treated as somehow different from victims of other crimes. The provision of specialist support through the NRM is a great resource, but it is not an alternative to the services other victims of crime can access, especially those with wider and complex needs…. It is time to reframe our response to victims of modern slavery and treat them as, first and foremost, victims of crime. This is for their benefit as they seek justice, and for the sake of relentlessly pursuing those committing these appalling crimes, who too often act with impunity.’ (Report quote)

Read the full report here: