My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to speak alongside so many distinguished speakers today. I thank the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for his excellent speech and for bringing this important Bill before us. Of course, it is always a pleasure to hear and follow the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. I will focus on one aspect of the Bill: the benefits of providing victims with a support worker, or an advocate, as they make their way towards recovery —a provision found in proposed new Section 48C(1)(e).
Noble Lords will recall that the Modem Slavery Bill was preceded by a report commissioned by the then Home Secretary—the current Prime Minister—produced under the chairmanship of Frank Field. The resulting publication informed the Government’s approach to developing their Modem Slavery Bill. The report was entitled, Establishing Britain as a World Leader in the Fight against Modern Slavery: Report of the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review. Its title summarises many of the sentiments that have already been expressed by your Lordships. We want Britain to be a world leader in the fight against modem slavery, as it was nearly two centuries ago.
In that report was a recommendation that is encapsulated in this Bill,
“that a ‘survivor support pathway’ should be developed in the UK in order to ensure that outcomes for survivors are improved and that their long-term recovery is protected and maintained ... there is a significant need for ongoing support beyond the 45-day reflection period”.
It was also recommended that there should be a special, short-term temporary residence visa and work permit for confirmed victims where needed.
The need for individuals to receive personalised support has been recognised for some time. The evidence review recommended that part of that support could include a “mentor”, who would ensure that the individual, for example, gained access to work and housing. The noble Lord’s Bill proposes in the section that I quoted that victims should have a support worker to walk alongside them through the journey of recovery. That is a sensible proposal because individuals in vulnerable situations need someone to be their advocate, to encourage them and to help them through the maze of options that they face. A victim of trafficking is in such a situation: possibly in a new country, not able to understand the language and having to navigate a complicated system of benefits and housing just to get back on their feet.
The notion of a support worker is not mere speculation; some charities already offer this kind of assistance. City Hearts, for example, is a charity that runs an integration support programme—a very innovative and effective initiative. We know from our own personal experiences through life that we all need somebody who cares about us and is invested in our future. Trafficking victims have every good reason to doubt that individual care exists, but compassionate support shows results. The evaluation report that I have just mentioned includes feedback collected from victims on their experience of having an individual coach. The comments include, “I want to say thank you for being the one who believed in me”, and, “Thank you for all your support, for not giving up on me”.
Much good work is already being done by NGOs to support victims using varying models of a support worker. We need to give them extra tools to equip victims to finish the recovery process. This Bill would provide those tools and it is widely supported by NGOs. I very much hope that the Government will regard the Bill as an opportunity to fill a missing element of the Modern Slavery Act and that, in doing so, the United Kingdom will be recognised as a world leader in caring compassionately for victims.