Clause 42 - Guidance about identifying and supporting victims

Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am ar 14 Hydref 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Ceidwadwyr, The Wrekin 2:00, 14 Hydref 2014

I remind the Committee that with this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 22—National referral mechanism—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must by order establish a mechanism for the identification and protection of victims of modern slavery offences as defined in Part 1 of this Act.

(2) In establishing the mechanism the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of making provision for the following matters—

(a) the means and process for the identification and referral to the mechanism of potential victims of modern slavery;

(b) the provision to a child of an advocate in accordance with section 41 of this Act, if no such advocate has already been appointed upon identification of the child as a victim or referral to the mechanism;

(c) the appropriate stages in the formal identification process of a victim of modern slavery, the tests to be applied at each stage, and the timescales within which each stage must be completed;

(d) the suitability, qualification and necessary training of a person or organisation to fulfil the processes at paragraphs (2)(a) or (c);

(e) the principle that an organisation whose functions include determining asylum and immigration is unsuitable to deal with the matters referred to in paragraph (c).

(f) the care assistance or services which shall be provided as a minimum to all potential and formally identified victims of modern slavery;

(g) the provision of an internal review and appeal of a decision under paragraphs (2)(a) or (c).’

New clause 27—General duty to identify, assist, support and promote the welfare of victims—

‘(1) Public authorities have a general duty—

(a) to take all reasonable steps to identify persons who are, may be, or may have been, trafficked, enslaved or exploited persons;

(b) to take all reasonable steps to provide assistance and support (including to refer persons to other agencies for assistance and support) on a consensual and informed basis, and to promote the welfare of persons who are, may be, or may have been, trafficked, enslaved or exploited persons, including, as a minimum the provision of—

(i) standards of living capable of ensuring their subsistence, through such measures as the provision of appropriate and secure accommodation, psychological and material assistance;

(ii) access to necessary medical treatment;

(iii) translation and interpretation services;

(iv) counselling and information, in particular regarding their legal rights and the services available to them, in a language that they can understand;

(v) assistance to enable their rights and interests to be presented and considered at appropriate stages of criminal proceedings against offenders; and

(vi) access to education for children;

(c) to make arrangements for ensuring that any services provided by another person for the purpose of discharging the public authority’s function are provided in accordance with the general duty in section 16(1) above; and

(d) to have due regard to the fact that an individual is, or may have been a trafficked, enslaved or exploited person when making decisions affecting that individual.’

New clause 28—Establishment and function of the National Referral Mechanism (“NRM”)—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must establish an NRM to—

(a) identify trafficked, enslaved or exploited persons within the United Kingdom;

(b) provide assistance and support to a person who may have been trafficked, enslaved or exploited from the time at which that person is first referred into the NRM until such time as a final and conclusive determination is made that they are not such a person; and

(c) ensure that the rights of such persons are protected and promoted in a manner which discharges the Government’s obligations under the Trafficking Convention and the Trafficking Directive regarding the identification and protection of victims, including measures for assistance and support including, at a minimum, the measures referred to in section 16(1).

(2) The Secretary of State must, in regulations, specify the procedures to be followed to implement the NRM and the procedures to be applied by the NRM including to give effect to the right to a renewable residence permit provided for in sections 16(11) and (12) below.

(3) The regulations must provide for a right of appeal by an individual in respect of a decision in the NRM process that they are not a trafficked, enslaved or exploited person.

(4) A person (including a child) must give their free and informed consent to being referred into the NRM before a referral is made on their behalf.

Additional protections - renewable residence permits

(5) A person who is determined in the NRM process to be a trafficked, enslaved or exploited person shall be entitled to a one year renewable residence permit permitting them to remain in the United Kingdom where one or other, or both, of the following situations apply—

(a) a competent authority in the NRM considers that their stay is necessary owing to their personal situation; or

(b) a competent authority in the NRM considers that their stay is necessary for the purpose of the person’s co-operation with the authorities in connection with their investigations or criminal proceedings.

(6) A residence permit for child victims shall be issued where it is in accordance with the best interests of the child and, where appropriate, renewed under the same conditions.

Duties in relation to children

(7) The protection, assistance and support provided to trafficked, enslaved or exploited children (including those to whom the presumption of age applies) in accordance with the provisions in this Bill shall be at least equivalent to the protection, assistance and support provided to adults, save that  where other legislation provides for greater protection for children that legislation shall, to the extent of any inconsistency with this Bill, prevail.’

New clause 29—Identifying and supporting victims—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall make regulations about the arrangements for determining whether or not a person is to be treated as a victim of slavery or human trafficking and shall in particular make provision—

(a) about the process for the referral of potential victims of slavery or human trafficking for such a determination;

(b) about the process and tests for determining whether a person should be treated as such a victim; and

(c) for an individual to have access to an internal review and appeal of a decision made about them under subsection 1(b).

(2) The Secretary of State must issue guidance to such public authorities and other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate about indicators that a person may be a victim of slavery or human trafficking.

(3) The Secretary of State may, from time to time, revise the guidance issued under subsection (2).

(4) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published in a way the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(5) The Secretary of State must ensure that—

(a) a person about whom a referral has been made under subsection (1)(a) is provided with assistance and support in accordance with this section for—

(i) if there are no criminal proceedings, ninety days,

(ii) if criminal proceedings take place, ninety days after criminal proceedings are completed; or

(iii) until there is a conclusive determination under the processes established by subsection (1) that a person is not to be treated as a victim of slavery or human trafficking,

(b) if the family of a child identified as a victim is resident in the United Kingdom it be entitled to assistance and support under this section,

(c) assistance and support provided under this section—

(i) is not conditional on the willingness of the person to act as a witness;

(ii) shall be provided with the person’s agreement;

(iii) shall take due account of the victim’s need for safety and protection, including the opportunity to receive assistance from a person of the same gender;

(iv) shall be provided to assist victims in their physical, psychological and social recovery; and

(v) shall meet minimum standards for such support as shall be set out by the Secretary of State by order.

(6) For the purpose of this section, “assistance and support” may include but not be restricted to—

(a) appropriate and safe accommodation;

(b) material assistance, including that required by a person with special needs arising from pregnancy, physical or mental health conditions, disability, or being the victim of serious psychological, physical or sexual violence;

(c) medical treatment, including psychological assistance;

(d) counselling;

(e) information, including on a reflection and recovery period, the possibility of granting international protection and refugee status, a voluntary return, welfare entitlements and accessing employment;

(f) translation and interpretation services, as required;

(g) access to education for child victims and children of victims;

(h) legal counselling, either through legal aid or other means;

(i) legal representation, either through legal aid or other means;

(j) assistance in applying for compensation; and

(k) provision of services (including travelling and other expenses) to assist a victim of trafficking in human beings, and children of victims, to leave the United Kingdom and to settle in a new place of residence.’

This New Clause ensures the arrangements for determining if a person is a victim of slavery or human trafficking are established in regulations and contain a formal process for review and appeal and requires the Secretary of State to set out in guidance the indicators that suggest a person may be trafficked. The New Clause sets out the clear types of assistance which a victim can receive and enables the Secretary of State to establish minimum standards for the provision of that support. The New Clause sets out a ninety day minimum period for which a victim can receive support.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

Before the break I was speaking about support and assistance and the fact that at present there is a 45-day reflection and recovery period provided for victims on a policy basis, but that it does not appear in statute. Clause 42 is clearly a step forward in that regard and is to be welcomed, but it does not offer victims the firm assurance about the availability of assistance or the form that that support should take.

In its 2012 report, the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings invited the UK to enshrine the right to a recovery and reflection period in law. The evidence review carried out for the Home Secretary prior to the publication of the draft Bill recommended that the Bill should include details of the assistance available to victims. Submissions to the evidence review from the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance, a support provider for victims of trafficking based in Scotland, said:

“Clear, legally defined obligations towards supporting potential victims of trafficking will improve confidence in the state to provide protection for them, further encourage cooperation and lead to the successful prosecution of perpetrators.”

That sentiment was echoed in evidence to the Joint Committee and in submissions made to this Committee. Speaking only of guidance fails to provide the assurance to victims that they are entitled to assistance. Setting that fundamental principle in legislation would make it clear that the Modern Slavery Bill is a victim-focused Bill, not one concerned with just criminal justice matters.

The forms of assistance listed in new clause 29 reflect the levels of assistance that are to be provided under the EU anti-trafficking directive and the European convention. Incorporating those standards into our domestic legislation would put this country’s commitment to those international standards beyond doubt and ensure that whatever changes in Government policy or budgets occur, they will remain the benchmark for victim care.

Let me turn to minimum standards. Another difficulty that the new clause seeks to address is the lack of consistent standards or monitoring of the support that is provided. In its submission to the Committee, the charity Unseen described a “post-code lottery” in providing care for survivors. That is clearly unacceptable, and we must ensure that the high quality of care offered by the best providers is available to all victims. The Salvation Army, which currently holds the victims support contract for England and Wales, expressed concerns to the Home  Affairs Committee last year about the standard and suitability of accommodation provided to victims of trafficking who are seeking asylum and housed in National Asylum Support Service accommodation. GRETA—the Council of Europe group of experts on action against trafficking in human beings—the Centre for Social Justice, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group and others have all recommended the introduction of minimum standards for the care provided for victims. Will the Minister kindly reflect on how minimum standards for victim care are to be provided for in the Bill?

Let me turn to the longer period of support provided for in new clause 29. I want to raise a number of points to probe the issue. I do not intend to push the new clause to a vote, but I would like the Minister to respond in the same vein as she did to the amendments we debated this morning. New clause 29 provides for a longer period of support—90 days rather than the current 45, which I am sure all members of the Committee would agree is more appropriate. Recovery from an ordeal such as human trafficking and modern-day slavery is not something that can be achieved quickly. Post-traumatic stress disorder can go on for a long time indeed—much longer than 90 days. We must ensure that at least the initial period of support provides victims with the space to begin the healing process, to compose themselves and to make informed decisions about engaging with police investigations and with others about how they want to move forward with their long-term rehabilitation.

I am not convinced that our current system adequately prepares people to begin that longer-term recovery. When Andrew Wallis of Unseen gave evidence to the Committee about the challenges faced by a victim reaching the end of the 45-day period, he said:

“at the moment, we have someone falling down the side of a cliff, we give them 45 days in a safety net and then we remove the safety net and they carry on falling down the side of the cliff.”––[Official Report, Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, 21 July 2014; c. 24, Q54.]

He talked about the practical challenges caused by the inconsistency between the 45 days of support under the NRM and the much longer time frame required to obtain a national insurance number, which takes a minimum of 72 days and provides access to many things.

The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group highlighted the lack of support for reintegration following the initial 45-day period, saying:

“Those left without adequate support may find themselves isolated, vulnerable and at risk of further exploitation. Currently the only hope for longer term comprehensive assistance for victims of trafficking in the UK is through the private funding of service providers.”

It is therefore important that we put in place systems to support those who survive this horrific crime and help them to rebuild their lives safely, whether by returning home to another country or by seeking leave to remain here. We must address those issues and enable victims to have a smooth, positive transition from the initial period  of care into other forms of support. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on how the Bill can help to achieve that aim.

I have mentioned several areas that require improvement. Legislation can be used to enhance support. The existing frameworks are available only for victims of human trafficking who choose to enter the NRM. Mindful of that fact, I support the proposal in the clause for the Secretary of State to issue guidance regarding the support provision for victims of slavery and human trafficking. However, the nature and format of that support is unclear from the text of the clause.

Each of the areas of concern I have mentioned have greater significance when we consider providing support to all victims of modern slavery, whether or not they have been trafficked. We cannot simply bolt the provision of assistance to victims of clause 1 offences on to the NRM without considering the weaknesses in the current system. The circumstances of victims of trafficking, slavery and forced labour are similar, as we have noted many times in the Committee, but there are also differences among them, not least in the international obligations. We must take all those factors into account when we consider how to provide support. Will the Minister clarify how support for victims of slavery and forced labour, as opposed to victims of trafficking, will be provided, and how the two systems will interact?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. I am grateful to them for tabling and speaking to new clauses 22 and 27 to 29, which deal with the crucial issue of how best to identify and support victims of modern slavery. The new clauses are intended to ensure that we identify and support as many victims as possible. I share and support that ambition, which is why we are taking decisive action.

The most important thing is to spot and rescue victims in the first place. The best referral support systems in the world will do good only if we first find the victims, who are so often hidden in plain sight up and down the country. Therefore, clause 42 sets out a requirement for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to appropriate public authorities and other appropriate persons about identifying and supporting victims. In practice, the guidance will focus on the effective identification of child and adult victims of modern slavery. It will provide information to front-line professionals and others about potential signs that somebody is a victim, so that victims are identified and get the help and support they need as quickly as possible. The guidance will set out the assistance and support on offer to victims through the Government-funded adult victim care contract, which is currently operated by the Salvation Army, and through local authority safeguarding and child protection arrangements for children. It will also cover important child-specific issues, such as the operation of the presumption about age, set out in clause 43, and the provision of child trafficking advocates, set out in clause 41.

Clause 42 also enables the Secretary of State to revise the guidance as required to ensure it is up to date and appropriately reflects relevant changes in policy or delivery relating to the identification of or support for victims of modern slavery. The flexibility to alter statutory guidance  to reflect best practice supports the role of the anti-slavery commissioner, who will assess how effective practice in the identification of victims is and suggest how that can improve. That is critical. We have talked about the various regular meetings that I hold with non-governmental organisations, stakeholders and operational leads. The anti-slavery commissioner will have a vital role in the identification of victims and ensuring that all bodies are working towards appropriate victim identification. For example, the custody sergeant in a police custody suite might come into contact with a victim who has been arrested for a crime. We need that sergeant to know the possible indications of slavery so that they can spot the signs before the victim ends up having to go through the criminal justice system because they are treated as a criminal rather than a victim.

We need Border Force staff, who are having considerable training in safeguarding, to know the visual indicators so that they can spot victims of trafficking as they come across the border. We need to ensure that health authority staff, education and all the bodies that may come into contact with victims, know what to look for and what the signs are.

Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Brent Central

A few weeks ago, I spent a long day at Yarl’s Wood. I was allowed to go through the booking system so that I could experience what a woman about to be detained would go through. What struck me during that process was the way that women are questioned in an open forum without any privacy. They are asked a series of closed questions, which makes it difficult for women to disclose sensitive information such as the fact that they might have been trafficked. It seems obvious that the current process is never going to pick up the kind of information that the Minister wants it to.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The provision is so much broader and wider. It is never going to be perfect, but we need to improve what we do across the board with all the bodies that might come into contact with victims. As we have said before, we cannot even begin to start to stop the crime without the victim. We need to find and help victims. It is only when we help victims that we can start to get the information to catch the perpetrators, making it clear to everybody that modern slavery has no place in Britain. The statutory guidance in clause 42 is vital to ensure that we start that education process as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that we do not accept what until now has been the position, which we all agree has not been sufficiently robust.

Clause 42 is an important provision to ensure a consistent and standardised approach to identifying potential victims and ensuring that they get the right support and assistance to move on with their lives. The statutory guidance will form a crucial part of our overall work to ensure that more front-line officials are aware of the indicators of modern slavery so that more victims are rescued from horrendous abuse. Once identified and rescued, it is essential that victims are appropriately supported so that they can start to rebuild their shattered lives. As hon. Members are aware, the Home Secretary commissioned a review of the NRM earlier this year to  ensure that our system for referring, assessing and supporting victims is working as effectively and supportively as possible.

I want to put on the record that nobody is saying that the NRM is currently working. The NRM was introduced to meet a demand at that time, but our knowledge of the crime—the treatment of victims and what they go through—has moved on so much in the five years since the NRM was introduced that we all acknowledge that it needs to change. There are many points about the NRM that we know need to change.

The shadow Minister asked who would receive the guidance and whether it would be limited to public authorities or issued more widely. The NRM review will consider the issue of guidance and which organisations should be provided with guidance in full. However, I would expect the review team to take a view that guidance should be issued as widely, comprehensively and practicably as possible. The statutory guidance under clause 42 will be issued to public bodies such as the police, local authorities and NHS professionals so that they can effectively identify potential victims and know what to do when they do.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:15, 14 Hydref 2014

Does the Minister expect there to be tailored statutory guidance for each of those different authorities, or will blanket guidance be given out to everyone, irrespective of the part of the system they are dealing with?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My understanding is that the NRM review is looking at that to see how the guidance should be structured and tailored. The review is being led by Jeremy Oppenheim, who, as well as having extensive experience in the Home Office, has held roles in the voluntary and local authority sectors, principally as a director of social services and chief executive of a national charity. He is ensuring that the review of the NRM is independently conducted, that all the relevant options are being considered and that the recommendations are balanced.

I wrote to members of the Committee on 2 October to provide a copy of Mr Oppenheim’s interim report. I hope the report demonstrates how thoroughly he has been approaching this task, in which he has consulted more than 100 organisations. I am particularly pleased that he has visited safe houses and heard the experience of victims first hand. I visited some safe houses with him and heard how he used sympathetic questioning of victims to try to establish the difficulties in the process that they went through—for example, the number of different interviews.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central talked about how victims recount different stories, and we saw that with our own eyes. Jeremy Oppenheim and I sat with a victim who gave us a slightly different account of her experiences to us from that which she had given to previous people she had spoken to—some of it was the same, but other elements were slightly different. That reflects just how important it is to allow victims the opportunity to develop their stories—by that I do not mean that they should change them, but as they become stronger and more able to talk about their experiences, more will be learnt.

We also need to ensure, however, that we are not forcing victims into recounting their story too many times, because as soon as discrepancies start to appear, so too will doubt for the authorities and we do not want that. We want to ensure that the authorities and those bodies who are carrying out the discussions with victims are doing so in a sympathetic and safe way, so that they can get as much as they can from them, clearly within the constraints of what the victims are able to talk about, understandably, to someone who is in effect a stranger.

Mr Oppenheim makes clear in his interim report that his review has been unashamedly victim focused, and that is how it should be. He has also held a workshop to consider the issue of children in the NRM and he states in his report that he has

“particularly considered child safeguarding processes.”

I am pleased that he has taken that approach, which gives me great confidence that his report will seek the best possible outcome for all victims of these horrendous crimes.

The review has not yet come to detailed conclusions on each of the issues being considered, which will be set out in the final report. However, we have a clear indication of the kinds of issues that Mr Oppenheim is considering: victim identification, access to support and governance of the NRM in particular. Those issues include improving the training of first responders, ensuring that all parties can have confidence in the expertise and objectivity of the decision makers, including whether a right of appeal would help in that regard, and whether the NRM should be placed on a statutory footing.

The shadow Minister asked about aspects that may be missing from the interim review. The interim report was clear that there is no need for a tighter, professionally managed entry to the NRM, multidisciplinary decision making and comprehensive oversight of the system. Those three aspects will address the concerns raised by the shadow Minister relating to the accuracy of decision making and any disparity between existing referral bodies and competent authorities.

With this thorough review well under way, I am confident that the final report will provide a comprehensive assessment of the current mechanism and make clear, practical and victim-focused recommendations to improve the system. I expect the report to be published before this provision is debated in another place to allow ample time for scrutiny before the Bill becomes an Act.

I know of the concern about how much scrutiny can be allowed in the two Houses, but the most important thing, from my point of view, is getting this report and review right. I do not want to rush it just to meet an arbitrary deadline. In the area of modern slavery, the process of getting to the end of a knotty problem often causes us to discover another 10 or 15 knotty problems on the way. This is not a simple issue that can be easily or quickly addressed, and it is absolutely right that we spend time ensuring we do it properly. I am therefore very reluctant to make changes to the NRM or to set out its roles and functions in the Bill at this stage, thereby pre-empting the review’s outcome. The whole point of the review is to ensure that as many stakeholders  as possible can contribute, so that a set of improvements can be suggested that take on a wide range of advice and consider all the evidence in detail.

We all share the objective of achieving best practice in identifying and supporting victims. I welcome the important contributions from Members on how we might achieve our common goal, but I do not believe that the best way of doing that is tying ourselves to one set of changes at this point without the benefit of the expertise and evidence that Mr Oppenheim’s final report will bring to the issue. I appreciate the thinking behind the detailed proposals in new clauses 22, 28 and 29, which are clearly designed with victims in mind. However, I am confident that all the issues raised are being fully considered by Mr Oppenheim and I will ensure that he is aware of the contributions made today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central and the shadow Minister asked about the decision making and whether the final review will look at the different roles of UK Visas and Immigration—I should make clear that it is now UKVI, not UKBA—and the UK Human Trafficking Centre. The interim review and the final review both cover decision making. The interim review states:

“My early thoughts are that a multi-disciplinary decision making process provides the best way of harnessing the professional expertise needed to make the trafficking or modern slavery decision.”

The identity of the decision maker has therefore been carefully considered. I know there have been concerns about the differences in the number of approvals given by the Human Trafficking Centre and UKVI, but some of those can be explained by the different groups of victims the two bodies look at. Mr Oppenheim is looking at the decision-making process so that there is certainty and comfort for all in the system that it is fair and quick. That is an extremely important point.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Hazel Grove

I think that the central question for Committee members is whether it will make a difference to someone’s chances of being believed if they appear before one organisation rather than the other. We are looking for something that gives equal chance and weight to the evidence received by both bodies.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I take my right hon. Friend’s point. Mr Oppenheim is looking at that issue and is aware of those concerns. I will repeat that point to him to ensure that the final report draws out all his conclusions on it.

The new clauses all call for the NRM to be put on a statutory footing, with the Secretary of State setting out by regulation the processes to be followed. They also call for the NRM to cover victims of slavery and human trafficking, and state that there should be a process to appeal and review decisions. As I have outlined, all these issues are being carefully considered by the NRM review. New clauses 22 and 29 also set out in great detail the type of support that should be provided. I reassure the Committee that we either already provide or facilitate access to all the types of support listed. In addition, we are currently re-tendering the contract for victim care services and have explicitly left arrangements in place so that it will still be possible to build additional support provision into the requirements for the new contract if the NRM review recommends it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton talked about the time that should be given to victims. The difficulty here—and the review is looking at this—is what is the right number. Clearly, the international obligation is 30 days. England and Wales went beyond that, moving it to 45 days. There are many victims who spend a lot longer in the process and receive support for a lot longer. I have met victims who have been within the victim care contract arrangement for well over 12 months. That is because support needs to be tailored to the victim, because a UK national victim who has a national insurance record, an NHS record and so on may not need administratively quite as long in the NRM but needs just as long emotionally. We also see difficulties in getting UK victims into the NRM, because so much of the support that the NRM offers is aimed at those who have no homes, and need safe houses and support with their immigration and legal status and so on. UK victims may not need that sort of support; they may already have a home that they do not want to leave. So we are looking very carefully at how we make sure that the NRM caters for everybody.

It is true that at the moment the support available following the 45-day period may be less comprehensive than is desirable. The review is taking a victim-centred approach, focusing on the support that victims required throughout the period and beyond, and is looking at how we monitor outcomes for people post the NRM period. There is no mechanism by which we can today identify people who have been through the NRM to see what their life outcomes are—whether they manage to find employment or are re-trafficked and end up back in slavery or servitude. Clearly, that is not right and we need to look at that.

My hon. Friend also talked about minimum care standards. We take the issue of standards of care extremely seriously. We will look carefully at the care standards following the NRM review and as part of the re-tender of the victim care contract. We are committed to providing victims of these heinous crimes with consistent, high-quality care and support. The guidance will cover both slavery and trafficking victims, adults and children, recognising their particular needs and vulnerabilities.

New clause 28 specifically states that an identified trafficking or slavery victim should be entitled to a one-year renewable residence permit if a competent authority judges that that is necessary, due to their personal circumstances or to co-operate with criminal proceedings. I would like to reassure the committee that it is already the case that UKVI can grant discretionary leave for those reasons. The proposed change may actually restrict that ability. For example, at the moment UKVI could grant leave to remain for up to three years, if we knew that a victim needed medical treatment for more than 12 months. It would simply be unhelpful if they had to renew for another full 12 months after the first 12 months.

Therefore I think we already have some good measures in place on some of the points of detail, but I am keeping an open mind about all the provisions in these new clauses and awaiting the outcome of Mr Oppenheim’s review. Like all hon. Members here, I want to make the process better for victims wherever possible, so I hope hon. Members can agree with me that the best way to  do that is to await the outcome of the National Referral Mechanism review, which we commissioned for exactly that reason.

Finally, I turn to new clause 27, which also clearly aims at improving the identification of and support for victims. We all know the problem that the clause is intended to solve. Victims are often traumatised or manipulated to the point where they do not identify themselves as victims, and so will do little to highlight their plight, even when in contact with the authorities who could help them. That is tragic, and we must do more to ensure that victims are not missed in that way.

However, I do not think that simply putting a duty on public authorities is the right way to achieve our shared goal. The Bill is already introducing a duty on specified public authorities to notify the National Crime Agency of any potential victims of slavery or human trafficking, so we are already focusing its attention on this issue and ensuring that it is properly acted on. However, what really will make a difference to victims being identified and referred to the proper support services are practical steps to increase awareness and understanding. I do not think that front-line professionals miss victims because they do not regard it as their duty to spot them. They miss victims because the signs are often very subtle, and in some cases their awareness of what to look for is not high enough. That is why clause 42 is so important. It is also why we have launched a major communications campaign to raise awareness about modern slavery, and that is why we are taking action to include modern slavery in relevant training packages to front-line staff.

The College of Policing, for example, is creating training packages to ensure that front-line officers can recognise the indicators of slavery and trafficking, and the anti-slavery commissioner will have a role in improving training provision across the board.

I want the same thing as the Members who have tabled the new clauses. I want more victims to get identified and receive the support they deserve. The steps we are taking in the Bill and beyond are the right ones to achieve that. I therefore hope that hon. and right hon. Members will feel able to withdraw their amendments and that Members will feel able to support clause 42 standing part of the Bill.

Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Brent Central 2:30, 14 Hydref 2014

I shall not detain the Committee further. I am grateful for the Minister’s reassurance that she will listen carefully and pass on the Committee’s comments to the reviewer. I look forward to the full results of the review and the debate in the Lords. Perhaps we shall see the results of the amendments back in the Commons at a later stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 42 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.