More than ten years ago I first began speaking about human trafficking and modern slavery in the House of Lords. Many people had little idea what I was talking about and it seemed simply unbelievable that on our doorsteps there were women, children and men being exploited in prostitution, forced labour, domestic servitude and all kinds of other harrowing situations.
Now things are different, we now know that modern day slavery can be found in all our communities, from high street nail salons to factories supplying household name companies, and in both rural villages and big cities. In large part, this increased awareness is due to the Modern Slavery Act introduced in 2015. Our police forces and other public agencies are now better equipped to identify victims than ever before.
The problem is, it has become clear that our current system doesn’t provide victims with enough support to set them up for recovery.
Our current system offers a safe place and supportive care for 45 days when they first escape their abusers, but when the authorities have assessed their case and confirm they are a victim, that support comes to an end. Some may be able to find help, but many sadly end up homeless and destitute. They become vulnerable to the attention of criminals who will offer them work or somewhere to live, only to find themselves being exploited all over again.
On Friday 8 September I will be bringing a Bill to the House of Lords that will give victims support for a year, helping them to recover from their traumatic experiences, find safe and long term accommodation (whether here or in their home country) and to regain confidence and skills to rebuild their lives.
I am grateful for the work of many charities and groups like the Coop in offering care and opportunities to victims, but by enshrining this protection in law it will be available for all victims. I very much hope the Government will support my Bill and take action to prevent victims falling through the gaps of support back into the grip of exploitation.