Modern Slavery is one of the great evils of our time, and this Bill is important as it build on the legislation which was passed in 2015 with the support of all parties. The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 is a groundbreaking piece of legislation, but one area in which it falls short, is in the support it gives to the survivors of this terrible crime.
Presently, victims of modern slavery in England and Wales are only entitled to a safe place and care for only 45 days. After that, the victims currently have to rely on discretionary support, if they are lucky enough to be accepted on such a programme.
The Bill being debated in Parliament today will extend the support available. It guarantees all victims at least 12 months care and support, providing the chance to get their life back and to begin the recovery process.
In both Scotland and Northern Ireland, the devolved institutions have already taken action. In both, support is automatically available to victims for at least 12 months.
Lord McColl’s legislation will give similar protections to victims in England and Wales and has the support of charities, campaigners, organisations and businesses who want to see the best possible help provide to the victims of this terrible crime.
One of the most vocal among them is the Co-operative Group, which is already leading the way working with victims of modern slavery and trafficking. Via its Bright Future programme, the Co-op supports victims in the process of recovery by proving work placements and employment, as well as engaging closely with charities that are providing care to those that have been abused.
The Bill will also help with the Police investigations and prosecutions of the traffickers, because it will remove a serious impediment to victims coming forward. Currently, victims who have taken the courageous step of going to the Police and helping them act against the traffickers, afterwards find themselves destitute, fending for themselves with no support what so ever.
This places them at real risk of falling back into the nightmare they have just broken free from. In at least one case, victims have turned to prostitution, seeing no other way to provide for themselves.
The Co-operative Group is one of the leading businesses in the UK taking responsibility to eradicate slavery from their supply chains. Their Modern Slavery Statement is one of the most detailed policies of its kind, setting out how The Co-op is working to ensure that is the case.