Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery now throughout the UK – how Jericho helps
A report on the BBC News website on 10th August claimed that modern slavery and human trafficking are now ‘in every UK town and city’. According to the National Crime Agency both are “far more prevalent than previously thought”.
The NCA said that previous estimates of 10,000 – 13,000 victims in the UK were the “tip of the iceberg” and that they believe there are tens of thousands of victims, with key sectors now including food processing, fishing, agriculture, construction, domestic workers, care workers and car washes.
There are more than 300 live policing operations at the moment, the agency stated, with cases affecting “every large town and city in the country”. Indeed, trafficking into modern slavery is now so widespread that ordinary people are probably coming into contact with victims as they go about their normal daily life.
The Jericho Foundation is currently the only organisation in Birmingham (and possibly the UK) with the experience, expertise and resources to deliver a programme of voluntary and paid work, training and tailored support, to enable the victims of modern slavery to end their dependency on benefits, secure sustainable employment and become an inclusive and integrated part of their local community.
Survivors of human trafficking are generally capable hardworking individuals who have been duped, abused and exploited. Rescue and safe house accommodation are only the start of the journey for these survivors and they often face many barriers to becoming successful, productive members of society. Barriers can include:
- No entitlement, or limited access to benefits following their period in a safe house – this includes housing benefit
- Difficulty accessing appropriate housing
- Challenges with navigating the asylum process, where appropriate
- Lack of skills or qualifications
- Difficulty in finding paid employment
- Lack of language skills
- Substance dependency developed during exploitation
- Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
- Mental health problems including post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety
- Financial problems, including debt or benefit fraud built up in their name
- Dearth of provision of work placement opportunities for disadvantaged groups
Each of these barriers tackled individually would be difficult enough to overcome, but taken together they appear insurmountable. Lack of ongoing support post-rescue and safe house is a nationally-recognised problem. Government-funded support ends abruptly and a report compiled by expert agencies in the field states that “… The current situation leaves survivors with little realistic opportunity to rebuild their lives, with some ending up destitute, vulnerable to further harm or even being re- exploited… ”. Indeed, survivors are frequently at risk of homelessness and sleeping on the street.
However – there is another way. Members of the Jericho Client Support Team are able to work with these survivors to identify exactly the type of support that they need in order to recover, gain confidence and participate in an appropriate paid or voluntary work placement (usually in one of our eight social enterprises). The Team and social enterprise Managers work together to provide a holistic package of on-the-job support, guidance and training. When the placement is finished, and the survivor has gained the skills and abilities to return to mainstream work, the Jericho staff then help them to find a suitable position.
In addition to the benefits of employment as a therapeutic intervention, and the positive impact on mental health, confidence, and self-esteem, paid employment also makes secure accommodation a reality for the survivors. This removes the risk of homelessness and allows survivors to continue their journey towards being a fulfilled member of society who can contribute to the UK culture and economy.
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