COMMONS

Victims of modern slavery inquiry launched

27 October 2016

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry examining the Department for Work and Pensions' policies and processes in relation to recognised victims of modern slavery and to assess potential changes in policy after Brexit.

Scope of the inquiry

The Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, wrote to the Chair earlier this year to highlight the difficulties recognised victims of modern slavery have in accessing support and benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that there is no specific support in place for recognised victims, unless they are granted discretionary leave.

The existing processes for EU/EEA victims is different from non-EU victims. Following the UK's decision to leave the EU, there are questions on how EU/EEA victims will be treated in future.

The Committee's inquiry assesses DWP policies that relate to modern slavery and investigates how EU/EEA victims will be treated following Brexit.

Call for written submissions

The Committee invites written submissions addressing one or more of the following issues.

  • What is DWP's role in providing support to recognised victims of modern slavery (both EU/EEA national and non EU/EEA nationals)?
  • How effective is this support and what improvements could be made?
  • What guidance and training is there for frontline DWP staff in contact with victims of modern slavery and how does this compare with other with other frontline areas, e.g. NHS?
  • What is the impact on victims of modern slavery when they cannot access support and benefits?
  • What are the costs to the state of supporting victims, including costs if victims become homeless and destitute?
  • What are the potential impacts of Brexit on the support provided to victims (both EU/EEA national and non EU/EEA nationals)?

The deadline for written submissions is 11 December 2016.

Chair's comments

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The Modern Slavery Act was a game changing piece of legislation. The Prime Minister, who introduced the Act during her time as Home Secretary, has set out her desire to build on the Act and, in so doing, make our country a world leader in the fight against modern slavery. The Select Committee hopes to play a key part in this vital mission of taking the Act forward and will be seeking ideas on the most effective ways of helping victims of this evil rebuild their lives."

Background

In 2014, the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery. 2,340 of these potential victims were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)—a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery. Those victims who receive an initial positive ('reasonable grounds') decision are then able to access some accommodation and support.

In April 2016 the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, wrote to the Chair regarding the support and protection of EU/EEA national victims of modern slavery. Non-EU national victims tend to apply for asylum and enter the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). Mr Hyland said that EU/EEA victims have 'very limited options to access support and welfare benefits'.

The Department for Work and Pensions have confirmed that, unless they are granted discretionary leave, EU/EEA national victims are treated no differently to other EEA nationals. A positive conclusive grounds decision (CG) on its own does not entitle the victim to any additional support, other than 14 days of support from the Salvation Army.

Treating modern slavery victims in post-Brexit UK

The Commissioner also said that DWP staff needed guidance on how to respond to the needs of victims. He said that the evidence from managers of safe-houses suggested DWP staff had 'very limited or even no knowledge and understanding of modern slavery and the impact it has on its victims.' DWP have said they are treated as victims of crime, and advisers and work coaches can use their discretion to tailor support.

Following the UK's decision to leave the EU, there are questions around how EU/EEA nationals will be treated. It is uncertain whether all modern slavery victims will have access to the same support, regardless of nationality. It is also unclear whether the system for handling victims will change as a result of Brexit.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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