Coronavirus Bill amendment ‘vital’ to safeguard modern slavery victims

Hope for Justice is calling on the government to ensure there is clear guidance and contingency planning with appropriate safe provision, resourcing and support for victims of modern-day slavery as the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis develops.

Phillipa Roberts, Hope for Justice’s Director of Legal Policy, said: “It is important at this time that we ensure that victims of modern slavery, who are some of the most vulnerable people in society, receive the safeguarding and support that they desperately need.”

The Coronavirus Bill is due before Parliament today (23rd March). An amendment proposed by MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson seeks to ensure that, during this period of uncertainty, there is clear guidance on identification, support and assistance for victims of slavery and human trafficking.

The amendment is important because specific guidance is needed for this particularly vulnerable group.

For instance, because of circumstances outside of their control, few survivors of trafficking and exploitation will be able to follow the government’s advice to self-isolate and protect themselves against infection. Many survivors also have underlying physical health issues, which leaves them particularly vulnerable if they are infected.

Currently 80% of victims within the National Referral Mechanism (the UK government’s system for identifying and supporting victims) receive outreach support and receive just £35 per week in subsistence payments. It is not currently possible for people to purchase essential items in advance or be equipped for isolation on this level of subsistence payment. It is also not clear how survivors on outreach support will access their weekly subsistence entitlement of £35 per week, if they become ill or there are staffing issues due to the crisis.

Hope for Justice believes that there needs to be suitable accommodation for referrals to the Victim Support Care Contract to allow for people with symptoms of COVID-19 to be housed.