Many victims end up homeless when their time in a specialist safe house ends said Lord McColl ©PA Images
Many victims end up homeless when their time in a specialist safe house ends said Lord McColl ©PA Images

‘We must do better’ for modern slavery victims, says peer

8 September 2017

A Private Members Bill, supported by The Co-op, is seeking to extend the period of time victims of modern slavery receive support. 

The private members bill, submitted by Conservative peer Lord McColl, wants to amend the Modern Slavery Act to increase this period for which modern slavery victims are supported to a year.

Under the current system, much victim support ends after 45 days, which McColl says is not long enough. 

Extending support for victims of modern slavery is supported by two-thirds of people in the UK, according to research conducted by The Co-op.

The reading of the bill in the House of Lords comes days after a CIPS report revealed a third of companies had failed to complete their modern slavery report, a requirement under the Modern Slavery Act.

Lord McColl said: “Sadly, many victims of modern slavery find themselves homeless and destitute when their short stay in a specialist safe house comes to an end.  Each of these people has experienced terrible exploitation which most of us cannot imagine.

“We can and must do better to help victims recover from their traumatic experiences and help them to rebuild their lives.” 

Under his bill, assistance and support includes safe accommodation, financial assistance, medical treatment, counselling and legal advice.

The Co-op conducted an online poll of 2,012 adults and found a majority of people were in favour extending support for modern slavery victims.

But the research also found nearly one in five (18%) were unaware modern slavery existed, and less than half (44%) of under 35-year-olds knew about modern slavery or understood what it was. 

Of the members of the public that were aware of modern slavery, 85% saw it as a serious crime and felt more needs to be done to support the victims.

Paul Gerrard, Co-op group policy and campaigns director, said: “It’s encouraging to learn that there is compassion for the plight of victims and a clear backing to extend the period of support provided to them.”

The Co-op has made fighting modern slavery one if its priorities, and has been active in tackling the issue in their supply chain abroad as well as closer to home. It has been held up as an example of a company going above and beyond with its slavery statement.

Through its Bright Future programme, the retail group has given 30 survivors paid work placements within the business, and nine have gone on to accept full-time jobs in stores and warehouses this year.

Lord McColl’s private members bill is still in its early stages, with its second reading taking place on 8 September.

The latest issue of SM celebrates the heroes fighting modern slavery, including Lord McColl's House of Lords colleague Baroness Young of Hornsey.

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