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Human Trafficking

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 24th November 2009.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes 2:30 pm, 24th November 2009

If he will issue guidance to health care practitioners on the likely health care problems experienced by trafficked persons which might not present immediately.

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

Multi-agency guidance for all front-line practitioners on meeting the needs of trafficked people was issued last month. It includes a specific section on how front-line health practitioners should respond to the needs of trafficking victims, including those who might not present themselves immediately.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes

As many trafficked people have suffered from the most appalling mental and physical abuse requiring ongoing medical support and counselling, could I mention to the Minister the in-depth counselling service of the Helen Bamber Foundation in London, which gives wonderful ongoing counselling support to trafficked victims as well as to those who are found to have suffered torture? Will she consider extending that kind of in-depth counselling service to other parts of the country where more and more trafficked people are coming forward?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

May I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who is a passionate advocate for people who rarely have a voice themselves? I, too, congratulate the Helen Bamber Foundation, whose work does indeed help to rebuild the lives of those who have suffered the worst of violations. Provision of services is of course a matter for local health services. However, I will gladly draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of the taskforce that the Government have set up, whose work includes looking at the role and the response of health services in respect of trafficked people.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

Talking therapies are very important for people who have been through the trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder that are too commonly the fate of those who have been trafficked. In our constituencies, many of us find that there is insufficient access to talking therapies for anyone. Will my hon. Friend talk to PCTs and mental health trusts around the country about ensuring that there is better access to counselling and talking therapies for people with such conditions?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

I certainly share the views of my hon. Friend, who makes an absolutely valid point. That is exactly why we have set up the taskforce. It is chaired by Sir George Alberti, who will look specifically at where there are gaps and what role the NHS and health service workers can play in supporting those who have been traumatised in the way that has been described. I hope that will do a lot to plug any gaps such as those that my hon. Friend mentions.

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Photo of Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan Labour, Paisley and Renfrewshire North

Most of the people who are trafficked into this country are young men and women who are exposed to terrible abuses. Will my hon. Friend have discussions with her counterpart in the Home Office to ensure that any criminal money that is recovered from the people responsible for this trafficking is confiscated and, better still, redirected to the NHS to pay for the health care of these young people?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

Again, my hon. Friend makes a very important point. Indeed, the taskforce that I referred to was set up by the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary, and we want particularly to consider how we can support victims of trafficking, work better together across Government and help to bring to justice those who perpetrate this crime. We want to make the advances that my hon. Friend refers to.

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