A survivor of forced labour in the UK has been awarded backdated benefits payments that he was wrongfully denied.
Yanis* was rescued from exploitation by Hope for Justice in 2016 and has received ongoing advocacy from the anti-slavery charity since then, including support to access accommodation.
Most recently, Hope for Justice’s Advocacy team worked on his behalf to submit a review of a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim – a benefit to which he was entitled as an individual suffering from long-term ill-health, but was refused by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a year ago, when he had to stop work due to his condition.
Following the appeal, Yanis, who is in his late 30s and living in Yorkshire, has received confirmation that the DWP has overturned their original negative decision and will grant him a backdate in payments of £2,800.
He said: “This will help me a little bit with my finances as I have more money to live on. It may also help me to retrain as I look to return to work in the future.”
One of Hope for Justice’s Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs) who has been supporting Yanis, said: “Slavery is a crime against humanity, and one which is happening right across the globe. Yanis is one of millions of people who have been oppressed at the hands of other human beings. Having escaped slavery, he has turned to our social ‘safety’ net for help as he rebuilds his life and has instead faced further injustice.”
Yanis was exploited for labour as a decorator and general labourer in the West Midlands region between 2010 and 2016. He had accepted the job, which came with the promise of accommodation, during a period of homelessness. But he was deceived by a man who trapped him in poor living conditions and paid him little or no money for his work.
Hope for Justice referred Yanis into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK’s framework for identifying potential victims of modern slavery, and he received a positive conclusive grounds decision in 2016.
Yanis said: “Without Hope for Justice’s help, I would not be here today. I would probably still be living on the streets.”
The charity’s IMSA has also advocated on Yanis’ behalf to secure him universal credit, ID documents and accommodation. They previously referred him to a solicitor and helped him collate and provide evidence which resulted in his being granted settled status – indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and also requested the review of his PIP decision, providing evidence as part of this process over a four-month period.
The charity’s IMSA said: “We are very pleased that the DWP has taken all of our evidence into account and decided to reverse their initial decision. These finances will be hugely beneficial to Yanis, who will use them to pay off rent arrears and debts which he has accrued while he has been unable to work.”
Yanis underwent surgery on his injured knee earlier this year and is currently in recovery. He hopes to return to work post-lockdown.
*Name and image changed to protect identity of victim