Loading content

CLOSED: Fellowship funding call - support for children with lived experience of modern slavery

Call for applications for a research fellowship assessing support for children who have experienced modern slavery in the UK.

Published: 6th December 2022

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) has issued a funding call for research on assessing the impact of support for children with lived experience of modern slavery in the UK.

In the UK, the number of referrals into the National Referral Mechanism, the UK’s framework for identifying and supporting potential victims of modern slavery, offers an insight into patterns of trends of modern slavery and how the overall system designed to address it is functioning.

Annual NRM statistics indicate a long-term trend of year-on-year increases since 2009 when the system was founded, apart from 2020 where the number of referrals were flat due to pandemic-related disruptions. In 2021, 5,468 children were referred as potential victims of modern slavery, an increase of 9% on the previous year (5,028).

In England and Wales Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs) are an independent source of advice for trafficked children who can speak up on their behalf and act in their best interests. The Home Office is required by Section 48 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to provide ICTGs to all potentially trafficked children in England and Wales. Since May 2021, ICTGs were available in two-thirds of Local Authorities.

There have been three published evaluations of the ICTG model which have focused on which elements work to support children with lived experience of trafficking, and what impact the ICTG has had whilst children are being supported by the service. Following the second evaluation, the government announced revisions to the model to reflect the differing needs of children who have existing support networks in the UK and introduced ICTG Regional Practice Co-ordinators (RPC) to focus on children who have a figure of parental responsibility in the UK. Compared to the Direct Worker, the RPCs do not offer one-to-one support but rather provide a strategic role working with professionals already supporting children who have been trafficked.

Since May 2021 the government has been testing three other recommendations from the second evaluation in particular sites: the allocation of a direct worker being tailored to assess risk, vulnerability and need on a case by case basis (not limited to those without a parental figure of responsibility in the UK; extension of ICTG service beyond 18, subject to personal circumstances; and removal of 18 month time limit of ICTG support provision (being tested in all sites). The first two of thee are the subject of a current evaluation.

To date only one of the evaluations has involved the direct perspectives of trafficked children and the evaluations have not provided a comparative impact an ICTG has on the recovery of a potential child victim in the longer-term compared to a potential child victim who does not have access to an ICTG. There is a need for further, independent, research to address these evidence gaps.

About this call

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) seeks to fund a research fellow for a period of nine months.

Over the course of nine months, the Modern Slavery PEC will work with the successful research fellow to co-design a programme of work to explore the nature of modern slavery affecting children in England and Wales, as well as the impact of receiving support from Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs) on children’s outcomes. The fellowship will be undertaken in close collaboration with Barnardo’s, who are one of a small number of UK organisations who provide direct, specialist support to trafficked children and who are funded by the Home Office to run the ICTGs services across England and Wales.

The Fellowship will be awarded as a grant to the host university or Independent Research Organisation (IRO), and the Fellow will be employed by that host for the duration, retaining all the usual benefits of employment. To complement the Fellowship, the Modern Slavery PEC and Barnardo’s will offer the Fellow management, guidance and support in developing and delivering on the objectives of the Fellowship as well as offering other benefits as outlined later on in this call guidance.


Essential objectives:

Co-design and lead a flexible, dynamic programme of work to:
A. Analyse the nature of modern slavery affecting children in England and Wales with respect to available data sets.
B. Undertake quantitative and qualitative research to assess the benefits and limitations of Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs) on long-term safeguarding and protection outcomes as well as well-being/recovery indicators for trafficked children in England and Wales, exploring any patterns. This will involve a period of co-design in collaboration with the Modern Slavery PEC and close working with Barnardo’s.
C. Develop evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and practitioners about how policies and services can support the recovery of children with lived experience of modern slavery.
D. Support the Modern Slavery PEC’s engagement with specific groups of policymakers and decision-makers that it is trying to influence with its research, for example, Government officials in the Home Office and Department for Education.
E. To undertake any other reasonable duties as may be required in relation to the project as determined by the Directors of the Modern Slavery PEC.

Desirable objectives:

F. Test a model for engaging young people with lived experience of modern slavery in the co-design and delivery of research, using participatory research methods.
G. Explore feasible approaches and undertake a comparative analysis. This analysis would consider the impact of ICTGs compared to services delivered by local authorities in England and Wales for trafficked children in areas without ICTGs, looking at long-term safeguarding and protection outcomes as well as indicators of well-being/recovery.

Phases of work

The research fellow(s) will work closely with the Modern Slavery PEC and Barnardo’s over three distinct phases of work: operational setup and co-design of methods, carrying out of research activities and collaboration on outputs, dissemination and policy impact. To do this, the fellow(s) will:

  • Scope and lead on research activities including quantitative and qualitative analysis of data
  • Work closely with the Modern Slavery PEC and any collaborating organisations
  • Collaborate with the Modern Slavery PEC on relevant policy impact and communications activities

Type of funding

This call is part of the Modern Slavery PEC Responsive Research mechanism that has been created to fund responsive and agile research projects. It is led directly by the Modern Slavery PEC, but is funded and actively supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Ways of working with the Modern Slavery PEC and Barnardo's

Collaboration and co-operation are key values for the Modern Slavery PEC. As such we will work jointly with the successful research fellow from the outset and will co-design and co-create research outputs that are timely, relevant, accessible, and have the potential to deliver policy impact.

The successful fellow will be task managed by the Research Director at the Modern Slavery PEC for the duration of this fellowship in collaboration with the appropriate colleagues from Barnardo’s based on the phase of work. As part of this management, they will meet regularly, with members of the wider Modern Slavery PEC team joining as appropriate.

The fellow will work alongside the Modern Slavery PEC and Barnardo’s to ensure the aims and objectives of the fellowship are met, and that outputs are delivered on time and within budget. The fellow will be the main point of contact with Barnardo’s for the purposes of this research, therefore applicants must be able to work with Barnardo’s via their virtual office and attend approximately 10 site visits over the course of their fellowship.

Budget and eligibility

A maximum budget of £100k at 100% full economic cost (FEC), to be funded at standard UKRI rates, is allocated for this fellowship, with rates of pay detailed below. The Modern Slavery PEC expects to fund one fellowship for this work, but joint applications on a job-share basis are permitted for this funding opportunity (see call document for full details).

The project can be led by either, a UK higher education institution or an approved research organisation which is eligible to receive UKRI funding.

  • The Modern Slavery PEC will fund research fellows for a buyout of between 0.6-1 full time equivalent of their time as a directly incurred cost, including overheads
  • Applications can also include directly incurred costs for activities taking place within the fellowship, for example this might include travel costs
  • This opportunity is open to early career academics to mid-career academics who hold a PhD or equivalent research experience. As well as relevant subject matter or methodological expertise, experience of working in a policy context is beneficial.

How to apply

You can find the full details and specification of the call in the call document below, as well as the project costing template, examples of funding scenarios and a sample contract.

The applications to this call must be made through our online form.

All applications will be reviewed by an assessment panel convened by the Modern Slavery PEC that will include external independent reviewers.

The deadline for applications is 4pm (UK time) 31 January 2023.

The decision on the award of the funding will be made by February, with the project due to start in March 2023 and finish by December 2023.

Call webinar and FAQ

A call webinar was held to go through the scope of the fellowship and answer questions from potential applicants. A recording of it can be found below and on our YouTube channel. The Q&A is captured in an FAQ document which is shared below.