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The benefits of longer-term support for survivors of modern slavery outweigh the initial costs, finds a new report

Wednesday, 17 July 2019
The report was launched on 17 July in Parliament

A new cost-benefit analysis from experts at the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham has found that the benefits and savings of providing longer-term support to survivors of modern slavery outweigh the initial costs considerably.

The report, which is launched today (17 July) in Parliament, was carried out by the team as evidence in the analysis of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill put forward by Lord McColl of Dulwich CBE (currently awaiting second reading in the House of Commons) to increase support to survivors of modern slavery.

Support proposed in the Bill includes appropriate and safe accommodation, medical treatment, material assistance, support work, translation services, and assistance to obtain legal advice for a period of 12 months from when existing support ends.

The report found that the extended support period would lead to savings in a number of areas, would  save money in the future by preventing more costly interventions at a later stage, and would also mean additional support for prosecutions of traffickers.

The report estimates that if the Bill had been passed in 2017 there would have been a direct financial benefit of implementing the changes for conclusive victims referred in that year outweighing the costs, including:

  • A direct financial benefit to the public purse of between £15.4m and £21.3m for all victims referred in 2017 (equivalent to an average of between £12.3k and £15.5k per victim) – across two categories - relief of homelessness and improved employability.
  • An additional indirect benefit of between £9.4m and £18.6m (between £7.7k and £13.5k per victim) as a result of employment and increased economic activity
  • Accounting for the costs of the additional support proposed, a net financial benefit to the public purse of between £1m and £6.6m, a net overall benefit (direct and indirect) of between £10.4m and £25.1m
I am very grateful to the team at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab for this excellent study evaluating the financial costs and benefits of providing victims with a longer period of support under my Bill.... Of course the benefits of providing victims with support go far beyond the financial, but it is significant to see the degree to which supporting victims on a pathway to recovery for a longer but limited period of time, can in fact result in cost savings and financial benefits.... I commend this thorough analysis to my colleagues in Parliament, to policy-makers and Government Ministers and encourage them to consider increasing the support for all victims of modern slavery with utmost urgency.”
Lord McColl, in the report foreword

Current ‘emergency’ support is limited to 45 days while a ‘conclusive grounds decision’ is made recognising someone as a victim of modern slavery in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK’s identification and support system for victims of modern slavery. Only two weeks of additional support is then guaranteed for recognised victims.

Facing this ‘cliff edge’ of support, many victims then face extremely precarious living situations, experience severe challenges to recovery and reintegration, and are at significant risk of being re-victimised.

Without longer term support, the consequences of modern slavery are often never addressed, with significant potential costs not only for survivors themselves, but also for the public purse.

Dr Andrea Nicholson, Associate Director of the Rights Lab’s Survivors and Cultures Programme, said: “Victims of human trafficking have suffered severe exploitation, with current support inadequate to address the complex needs of recovery following liberation. Sufficient survivor support, such as that proposed by the Bill, is crucial to ensuring survivors are given the necessary time to engage with services, and to gain legitimate employment. Without greater long-term support, these individuals are at risk of homelessness, chronic ill-health, and of being re-trafficked at a cost to the public purse.”

Findings from the report were also submitted as evidence in the case of NN and LP v Secretary of State for the Home Department. Led by Duncan Lewis solicitors, this judicial review challenged the time-limited support currently available to conclusive victims. In settling this case, the Home Office has now committed to implementing a sustainable needs-based system for supporting victims of trafficking.

By displacing the assumption that longer term support would impose substantial costs on the government, this report makes the case for comprehensive, longer term support for survivors.

Dr Katarina Schwarz, Associate Director of the Rights Lab’s Law and Policy Programme, said: “Providing victims and survivors with appropriate support after their experiences, and ensuring that they are able to access pathways to redress is more than just the right thing to do. It is a fundamental right for survivors, an obligation on the UK government, and now we also know that it would produce financial benefits for the state.

"Too often, providing survivors with sufficient support to allow for recovery and reintegration is presented as a benefit for survivors, but a cost for society. This analysis changes that, and we hope it helps people to recognise that ensuring justice and support for victims and survivors benefits us all.”

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Story credits

More information is available from Katarina Schwarz at Katarina.Schwarz1@nottingham.ac.uk

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