In a case that exposes the reluctance of the U.K. interior ministry to provide adequate support to modern slavery survivors, victims of trafficking going through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)* who are pregnant or have children are now able to access higher levels of financial support.
Victims of trafficking who are pregnant or have children and were not applying for refugee status were receiving almost half the support of those who were claiming refugee status – £55.50 ($69) and £107.75 ($134) per week respectively.
The Home Secretary announced that from July 1, subsistence rates for victims of trafficking with children not seeking asylum would be raised to match those who are.
But lawyers involved in the legal challenge and Labour MP, Paul Blomfield, have expressed their disappointment at the Home Office waiting until legal action is brought against them before providing survivors with support.
The judicial review brought against the Home Office in April by Duncan Lewis Solicitors argued that the lower levels of support available for victims of trafficking not claiming asylum is discriminatory and leaves vulnerable mothers without the means to purchase basic necessities.
The Independent reports:
The claimant in the case, a Chinese woman who is said to have been subjected to “horrific” sexual exploitation, had been unable to afford basic supplies for her newborn child, including baby shoes, toys, spare bedding, a changing mat and nail clippers, with the £20.50 in weekly support she was receiving for the baby.
Shalini Patel, the solicitor who brought the challenge, said: “For victims of trafficking this period brings back memories of long-term trauma. A number of women are pregnant when they enter the NRM and a number of those fall pregnant as a result of sexual exploitation.
“To have discriminated against this extremely vulnerable group for so long has been another shameful chapter in the government’s treatment of trafficking survivors. I am glad this challenge has brought about a long-term change.”
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central said: “The government has often claimed to be a world leader on modern slavery, but too often its policies fall short.”
Survivor advocate and leader of the campaign for better support for survivors like her in the U.K., Nancy Esiovwa, spoke in our Mind the Gap webinar on Thursday about the lack of adequate support available for survivors to help them recover in a meaningful way.
She said, “I’m not seeing how the UK is eradicating modern slavery. Despite a lot of money being invested, it isn’t clear how it’s being effectively tackled [survivors should be] given status and freedom to work.”
Whilst we welcome the increase of financial support now available for all victims of trafficking in the NRM who are pregnant or have children, the subsistence rate remains low and systemic change in responses to survivor needs is still necessary.
Freedom United is calling on the U.K. to ensure all survivors have access to long-term support – join the campaign today.
*The National Referral Mechanism is the official system in the U.K. to identify victims of trafficking.