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Identification of adults with lived experiences of modern slavery in the UK

Research project examining how to improve the identification of adult survivors of modern slavery

Despite the numbers of people identified as ‘potential victims of modern slavery’ growing year on year, there is room for improvement. In 2021, 12,727 people were referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the highest number of referrals since the NRM began. In the same year, the Home Office received 3,190 reports of adult potential victims via the ‘Duty to Notify’ process - a 47% increase from 2020 - where adults did not give consent for a referral, or where there was missing information.

There is limited evidence about how services can most effectively identify people with lived experiences of modern slavery, make quality referrals, and engage with people at the point of identification to encourage access to support, or how this has been affected by remote working necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A research project led by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL), in collaboration with the Human Trafficking Foundation, will investigate potential ways to improve the identification of adults with lived experiences of modern slavery in the UK through the examination of existing practice, looking at gaps in identification processes, and capturing promising practice in the area.

The project will look at the training that is currently in place at six First Responder Organisations (FROs) - designated to refer people to the NRM - to assess the nature and content of the training, as well as its effectiveness. The project team will collect information on training delivered to staff members of FROs and ‘blind review’ training manuals and/or programmes. The review process will provide a basis for a workshop with FROs staff members to design a pilot assessment of training effectiveness.

The team will also explore patterns of identification, including gaps and promising practice, according to characteristics such as exploitation type, gender, nationality, as well as the FROs involved in the referral. They will also look at the meaning and understanding of informed consent, and the reasons why adults decide to give, or not give, consent to enter the NRM. Alongside this, researchers will explore the nature of, and reasons for, changes in the number of Duty to Notify referrals, including through an analysis of the Home Office data.

Finally, the team will organise focus groups with staff members of FROs and adults with lived experiences of modern slavery to discuss the identification processes and to identify good practices. Focus groups will be complemented by a survey that will be distributed to FRO staff members and civil society organisations engaged in work on modern slavery to assess why, in their experience, adults with lived experiences of modern slavery may decide to give or not give consent to enter the NRM.

Research team: Noemi Magugliani, Jean-Pierre Gauci, John Trajer (BIICL), Robyn Phillips, Jasmine Selby (Human Trafficking Foundation).

This project was funded by the Modern Slavery PEC following an open call as part of our Responsive Research Mechanism.