Dear Prime Minister,
We write as community groups, charities and advocates, asking you to reconsider your responsibility to deliver on promises to provide support to modern slavery survivors earlier and for longer, which were formally shelved on 1st December 2023.
Early intervention saves lives
Modern slavery, encompassing human trafficking, labour abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and organ harvesting has a devastating impact on survivors’ mental and physical health. The Home Office recognises suicidal thinking, PTSD and depressive disorders as potential indicators of modern slavery due to the significant impact of this form of exploitation.
However, survivors of modern slavery are unlikely to be identified by the UK’s system, much less able to access support. Currently 100,000 people are living in the UK under conditions tantamount to modern slavery, according to the latest estimates. Yet, even when survivors come into contact with the authorities, many slip through the net because there is no guaranteed emergency provision, leaving survivors without urgent advice, medical support or psychological assistance in the days after exiting exploitation.
Prime Minister, do not break your Government’s promise of early support for modern slavery survivors: It will cost lives.
As you are aware, the long-promised ‘Places of Safety’ scheme could allow survivors to access basic advice, a roof over their heads, and medical intervention in the days after leaving exploitation when they might otherwise be destitute, at risk of reprisals from traffickers or driven back into exploitation. The Government recognised the need for survivors to be granted space to feel safe and supported whilst they weigh up their options and decide next steps, which is why the promise was first made as far back as 2017. Yet, without such a scheme, opportunities to identify and support survivors are missed, leaving many without the chance to process what they have experienced and make an informed decision about whether accessing support or working with the authorities is right for them.
Delivering the promised Places of Safety scheme would be a first step towards ending the support lottery facing survivors of trafficking and modern slavery.
Whilst the Government claims that some early support is already delivered, there are no public statistics on how many survivors get early access to support in practice. As the Places of Safety scheme is not fully funded, or guaranteed to survivors by law, research by numerous professional bodies and charities finds that early intervention remains illusive for many. Unless the Government honours its promise to guarantee emergency support for survivors who come forward, identification and recovery will remain a lottery.
All survivors deserve support
We are equally alarmed by plans to scrap a promise to provide survivors with a minimum of 12 months’ support. In 2021, ministers promised that survivors of modern slavery who jump through all the hoops expected of them in order to evidence their trafficking and slavery ‘conclusively’ could be guaranteed access to support such as counselling, accommodation and subsistence for a minimum of one year. When questioned during the Nationality and Borders Act’s passage through Parliament, the minister explained: “where necessary, all those who receive a positive conclusive-grounds decision and are in need of tailored support will receive appropriate individualised support for a minimum of 12 months. We committed to this.” However, this pledge has now been scrapped on the basis that decisions will be made on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, leaving some survivors with less support than others.
We know this approach is already robbing survivors of their right to a genuine opportunity to recover. As many as 8 in 10 (79%) survivors have their requests for support partially or fully denied by the Home Office, even after their accounts of slavery are recognised conclusively by decision makers. Introducing 12 months’ guaranteed access to support is vital to ensure that the UK’s system is fair and works in survivors’ interests.
As one of After Exploitation’s lived experience campaigners explains:
“The effects [of slavery] don’t just ‘disappear’ after 30 days [the current length of guaranteed support]. It stays with you for life. Once survivors come forward they must be able to get help quickly and the help needs to be open to them for life.”
A worrying direction of travel
In the past two years, the UK Government has passed the Nationality and Borders Act and the Illegal Migration Act which will effectively dismantle protection for thousands of slavery survivors. Revocation of the support promised not only threatens the recovery and safety of British survivors, but actively opens up non-UK survivors to punishment for their immigration status.
Revisiting broken promises will repair some damage caused, but the Government must also address the role that immigration enforcement plays in entrenching modern slavery and silencing survivors.
Anti Slavery International
Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG)
Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)
Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID)
Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID)
City of Sanctuary
East European Resource Centre
Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
Helen Bamber Foundation
Hope at Home
Hope for Justice
Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP)
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
La Strada International
Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)
Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN)
Migrant Rights Network
Modern Slavery Survivor Collective
No Accommodation Network (NACCOM)
Sophie Hayes Foundation
The Salvation Army
UK BME Anti-Slavery Network
Voice of Domestic Workers
Women for Refugee Women
Work Rights Centre
 Modern Slavery, Centre for Social Justice, 2023.
 Modern slavery victims to receive longer period of support, Gov.uk, 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/modern-slavery-victims-to-receive-longer-period-of-support
 Home Office comment, provided in response to Modern slavery victims ‘put at risk’ as Home Office waiting times at record high, Press Association, November 2023.
“There is support available where needed through the modern slavery victim care contract before a reasonable grounds decision is made, the Government said.” Accessible:https://web.archive.org/web/20231102194247/https://careappointments.com/care-news/england/201060/potential-modern-slavery-victims-face-near-quadrupled-waiting-times/
 Pre-NRM Accommodation Experiences of Survivors of Modern Slavery, Survivor Collective and West Midlands Anti Slavery Network (WMASN), 2019. Accessible: https://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/media/1334/pre-nrm-accommodation-experiences-of-survivors-of-modern-slavery.pdf
 First Steps to Safety? The role of reception centres in supporting people out of exploitation, British Red Cross, 2020. https://www.redcross.org.uk/-/media/documents/about-us/first-steps-to-safety-report.pdf
 2021 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery, HM Government, 2021. Pp 42. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1033986/2021_UK_Annual_Report_on_Modern_Slavery.pdf