Victims of modern slavery in the UK are being hit with a severe slash in government aid.
While asylum-seekers who were trafficked to the country could previously receive a subsistence rate of £65 per week while authorities investigated their case, the government is now cutting aid to just £37.95 per week.
Victims say this puts them a deeply vulnerable position as they struggle to afford basic needs like food, placing them at high risk of being re-exploited financially, sexually, and emotionally.
The Independent reports:
A former caseworker who was employed by Hestia, one of the charities subcontracted under the Victim Care Contract, said asylum-seekers rescued from labour exploitation were falling back into illegal work such as nail bars and cash-in-hand takeaways as a result of the subsistence cut.
The caseworker, who did not want to be named, said: “They struggle to afford food and basic items. They are lacking a lot of things that would really help to assist recovery. A lot of the appointments they need to attend, like therapy or charities, require travel money.
“I know of people who went back to working illegally after the cuts because they didn’t have any money. It was a difficult one because you can only tell them that our guidance is not to do illegal work, but you have to understand that people need to work to live.
There is a ongoing court case in the High Court challenging the government’s decision to cut subsistence rates. This month judges heard about a victim of sex trafficking who contracted HIV during her exploitation but who now cannot afford the diet needed for her medical treatment.
A lawyer for the woman explained that, “The [Home Office] had comprehensive evidence of her vulnerabilities and yet paid no regard to her circumstances when a decision was made to cut her weekly subsistence monies by 40 per cent.”
The Home Office has responded to the criticism by saying that the government is still “committed to helping survivors.”
“By changing subsistence payments, the overall funding available for survivors will remain the same, but it will be used to provide support for a longer time period, and when their needs are most acute, to further prevent the risk of being drawn back into exploitation,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.