Advocacy services key to preventing re-trafficking

Hope for Justice’s strategy for supporting survivors of modern slavery in the UK has been held up as an example of best practice to prevent victims from being re-trafficked.

The Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit (MSPTU) has recognised our victim-centred model in its latest annual report. Through our specialist advocacy and aftercare, Hope for Justice provides a single point of contact for survivors to guide them through often complex support systems put in place by government, agencies and other organisations.

The report also gives prominence to Hope for Justice’s work alongside West Midlands Police to foil the gang responsible for the largest modern slavery case in European legal history, who had trafficked and exploited up to 400 vulnerable Polish and Eastern European workers in the UK.

More than 50 victims were supported by the charity as they bravely gave evidence during two trials, and many of these individuals are still being supported by Hope for Justice today.

The MSPT Programme Annual Report 2020 reads: “Survivors ask for one point of contact who can guide them through a support system that can sometimes expose victims to being re-trafficked. This is the concept of the Independent Modern Slavery Advocate (IMSA) described at a national partnership conference by [Director of Legal Policy] Phillipa Roberts and [IMSA] Olivia Nightingale from the victim support charity Hope for Justice.”

A number of factors can make it difficult for survivors to navigate the support systems and processes available to them. Cultural and language barriers, trauma, mental health, lack of trust and unfamiliarity with welfare and legal structures are some of the major hurdles they face.

After being rescued from exploitation, it can take a survivor several months, even years, to recover. It is therefore vital that they have the right support in place to help them access housing, benefits, employment, mental health support and legal assistance, to name a few. Hope for Justice also supports survivors through the criminal and civil justice processes to ensure they receive restitution.

Hope for Justice has developed a proven multidisciplinary model that places survivors at the centre of their care, and ensures they are given access to long-term support.

“The sole focus of the independent advocate is to get the best outcome for survivors”, one of the charity’s IMSAs, Olivia Nightingale, said. “Our aim is to increase survivor resilience and independence, reduce their risk of being re-trafficked and in turn, to increase the chance of their engagement with criminal justice processes.”

Olivia and Phillipa spoke at a national partnership event last year, which was held to promote best practice in partnership work to prevent the exploitation of children and best practice in victim care and the prevention of re-trafficking. More than 200 delegates attended, with representatives from police forces, government departments, local authorities, social services, healthcare agencies, anti-slavery partnerships and NGOs.

Read the full annual report here.