A rough sleeper, John*, was being treated in a local hospital. He self-identified as a victim of human trafficking. The hospital unit called two anti-slavery charities but support was not immediately available so they contacted The Passage for emergency accommodation.
John was picked up from the hospital by The Passage staff and taken to The Passage Resource Centre. He was utterly distressed and traumatised. He was offered general homeless services, This included health and mental health support, registration with a GP and a B&B for the first night. He was also given immediate support: food, a shower, clean clothes and rest.
After a night of rest and sleep, John started disclosing his story. As he showed clear indicators of modern slavery, the case worker explained that he could be eligible for help through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the government system of support for victims of modern slavery. John understood the process and was willing to go to a safe house but not to work with the police. As organisations called First Responders are the only ones who can refer people into the NRM (and The Passage is not a First Responder), the case worker contacted a First Responder organisation and sent a signed support request. As the First Responder could not process the request immediately, the case worker contacted four alternatives to no avail. A safeguarding referral was sent to the local authorities.
There is only one safe house for men in London that accepts pre-NRM and no NRM victims. However, there was no bed available for John that night. A risk assessment was conducted, and it was determined that John was not a risk to himself or to others, therefore he was referred to a night shelter provided by another charity in Westminster. During the day, John maintained access to all Passage services.
On day four, John finally agreed to be referred by the police (who are also a First Responder), he signed a consent form for his case worker to be his representative. He was referred into the NRM by the police, although the case worker had been trying to call all phone numbers offered by five other First Responders.
On day eight, John received a positive grounds decision. On day ten, John was driven to a safe house.
For ten days, John was treated as a vulnerable homeless person. It took four days for John to be referred into the NRM.
John has now been moved from the safe house to a National Asylum Support Service accommodation while still waiting for a conclusive decision on whether or not the government believes he is a victim of modern slavery. He has been waiting for over ten months for a decision, in a process that should take less than 45 days.
*His name has been changed to protect his identity
This story was originally published in The Passage’s excellent report: Responding to Modern Slavery and Exploitation within the Homelessness sector, written by Dr Julia Tomas and published in July 2019.
Lead photo by Dan Burton from Unsplash