Human trafficking is the fastest growing international crime and there are clear links between trafficking, modern slavery and homelessness.
Trafficking and labour exploitation: new resources for homeless services
Modern slavery is a growing international crime which leaves no country unaffected. Figures from 2015 show a 40% rise in potential victims of slavery referred for support, compared with 2014.
Recent legislative changes such as the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and review of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) across England indicate a shift in political will to respond to this growing issue.
In the UK there are clear links between trafficking, forced labour and homelessness and evidence suggests that the majority of trafficking victims have slept rough at some point.
So how can homeless services respond and ensure they can provide the most protection for victims of modern slavery?
Traffickers often work in gangs to target potential victims accessing frontline homeless services. To combat this, frontline services can work in partnership and improve the way they share information. By improving their ability to collect intelligence, this can increase chances of detection and develop protocols for joint working across regions and sectors.
A range of models are currently being used across England to address the issue.
Partnership working in Central London
When concerns were raised by Westminster outreach teams about potential victims of trafficking accessing homeless services, they were invited to sit on the tri-borough Modern Slavery and Exploitation Group (MSEG), which works across Westminster, Kensington and Hammersmith & Fulham. MSEG comprises representatives from the three local authorities, several charities devoted to supporting trafficking victims, social services and the police.
St Mungo’s outreach ran an initial investigation on how to identify and record instances of trafficking within the rough sleeping community. They then sought to establish how best to work with affected individuals, through clear assessments and planning. As a direct result of this cross sector partnership work, a tri-borough outreach protocol was created to use when identifying someone sleeping rough who is suspected of being a victim of trafficking.
The protocol ensures that outreach workers have clear guidelines about how they can assist possible victims of trafficking in the short time they have to engage while assessing on the streets.
West Yorkshire Anti-Trafficking Network
The National Referral Mechanism is the process by which potential victims of trafficking are assessed for appropriate support. In 2014 the government announced a review of this process and set up two pilot areas in the South West and West Yorkshire, based on the use of slavery safeguarding leads and multi-disciplinary panels.
The West Yorkshire Anti-Trafficking Network (WYATN) covers all five districts – Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale. The network provides a strategic framework on behalf of the statutory, non-statutory and third sector organisations in West Yorkshire.
Local homeless services play a vital role in this cross-sector partnership – assisting in the identification of potential victims and providing evidence to increase prosecutions.
What can I do in my service?
It is essential that frontline homelessness services are aware of the risks to their clients and do all they can to spot the signs, report suspicions appropriately and protect potential victims.
We have updated our Trafficking and labour exploitation: Guidance for frontline homelessness services and developed additional resources, including a poster for your service and more good practice examples.
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