‘They did not know where to turn’ – trafficked family left extremely vulnerable

A large family identified as victims of human trafficking are receiving crucial help from Hope for Justice after “falling through the gaps” and being left without support for more than two years.

The family, a married couple with children aged between four and 17, are living in an “overcrowded” two-bedroom rented property.

The family was trafficked to the UK from their home in Eastern Europe for forced labour – a form of modern-day slavery. They had been promised work and accommodation and a better life in the UK. But when they arrived, their passports and documentation were taken from them and they were forced to work in inhumane conditions, against their will, under the threat of punishment. Members of the family were also victims of identity fraud. The father was forced to work 15-hour days for barely any money.

The family were identified and supported by the police to enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK government’s process for identifying and providing initial support to potential victims of modern slavery – in 2016. The following year, all of the family, including the children, received positive conclusive grounds decisions, a finding of fact by the UK authorities that they were victims of trafficking. But after this they were left unsupported.

One of Hope for Justice’s Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSA), with a legal background, said: “This family has been through the NRM but had sadly slipped through the gaps and did not know where to turn for help. There are many complexities to their case, which had meant that the local authority and other organisations were unable to respond to their needs.

“When we first met the family, they were severely in debt, they had complications with their entitlements to housing and welfare benefits, they were in need of immigration advice and they were struggling to access the vital support that they needed, including primary healthcare services.

“The recent pandemic has left this family even more vulnerable than before; the mother has a life-threatening illness, two of the children have developed symptoms of COVID-19, and neither parent can speak English.

“This has been a major barrier to them accessing support. The family were also without food and toiletries.”

Hope for Justice had met with the family several times prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus and is now speaking to them almost every day over the phone.

Over the past three months, the charity has ensured the family is getting the benefits they are entitled to, including Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for the mum’s health condition.

Our team has been advocating for them to be moved into appropriate and suitable accommodation that is not overcrowded.

Hope for Justice has also helped the family to apply for settled status in the UK, cancelled all current bailiff action against them and are continuing to advocate for the alleviation of their debts incurred as a result of their trafficking experience, as well as arranging for food shops and toiletries to be delivered while they are self-isolating.

The family are also expecting another baby in the next couple of weeks. Shortly before the UK went into lockdown, Hope for Justice arranged for the family to visit a local charity that provided all the necessary items for their new baby, including a cot, pram, clothes and other essentials.

Their Hope for Justice IMSA said: “Due to the language barrier, this family knew very little about what was going on locally, nationally and globally in relation to the pandemic, so we shared all of the government advice over the phone via an interpreter. We have also helped them to understand their medication because they were unable to read the labels. The mother has received a letter from the NHS explaining that she is in a high-risk category, and we have helped to translate these letters to her, as well as informing them about self-isolation.

“When they first moved into their current property, they had no idea how to set up bills so had fallen in debt with their utilities. We have stepped in and ensured that payment plans are in place and special measures are taken to protect the family’s finances at this particularly difficult time.”

The mother told our team: “We do not know what we would do without your support. You have been so helpful and so kind. Thank you for looking out for us.”