Clause 42 - Guidance about identifying and supporting victims

Part of Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 14 Hydref 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:00, 14 Hydref 2014

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.