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University of Hull and The Salvation Army announce partnership to help modern slavery survivors

28 March 2024

On the anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act (2015) becoming law the University of Hull and The Salvation Army have announced a new partnership this week.

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United in their goal to improve immediate and long-term support for survivors of modern slavery, they will work together to prevent re-trafficking and to help survivors reintegrate and move forward with their lives.

The announcement comes at a time of great change for legislation effecting survivors. The Nationality and Borders Act and Illegal Migration Act have swiftly changed the landscape in the UKs response to modern slavery. In February this year, the House of Lords launched a call for written evidence on the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The review of the Act, which focuses on the role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner, impact of recent legislation and transparency in supply chains, was welcomed by both the University’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation and the charity. Both call for increased duties to be placed on businesses to consider the entirety of their supply chains as well as significant improvements to the resourcing of the office of the anti-slavery commissioner and its powers to scrutinise and hold the government and its agencies to account on their performance. In addition improved systems of identification and support are also urgently needed and both organisations will share evidence to build and improve experiences of survivors in the National Referral Mechanism (a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support).

Professor Trevor Burnard, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, said: “The Wilberforce institute is delighted to be working with The Salvation Army – a leading organisation in British and international efforts to mitigate the scourge of modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Act provides organisations such as The Salvation Army and the Wilberforce Institute with the inspiration and tools to do serious and impactful work into modern slavery.”

Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, said:

“Combatting modern slavery is a global priority for The Salvation Army across the 134 countries in which we work. Here in the UK, we are privileged to be able to help survivors of modern slavery who have been referred to us for specialist support as they rebuild lives after exploitation.

“We believe it is only by working in partnership with other agencies and organisations such as the Wilberforce Institute that we can have a significant and lasting impact on this evil trade. We are delighted that this partnership will help us make the voice of survivors central to debates about how best to tackle modern slavery and improve outcomes for those people who have already been tricked, trapped and traded.”

The partnership will develop:

  • A proactive and energetic practice research partnership
  • A shared PhD research project that examines the reintegration of people who have experienced modern slavery and human trafficking back into communities
  • Empowerment of victim-survivor voices in the delivery of practice and policy influence
  • Improvements to the understanding of the survivor journey domestically and internationally
  • Sustainable victim-survivor research
  • Improvements to the immediate and long-term support for victim-survivors of modern slavery
  • Co-production of quality learning and knowledge exchange events that support and empower practitioners and law makers.

Andrew Smith, Manager of the Wilberforce Institute’s modern slavery Justice Hub, and University lead for the partnership, said: “This exciting new partnership between the Wilberforce Institute and The Salvation Army’s Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery unit is a pivotal in how we contribute to the anti-slavery conversation in the UK.

“The Wilberforce Institute is committed to using high quality research and knowledge exchange programmes to inspire and inform how agencies and partners respond to modern slavery related issues.

“By bringing together researchers, practitioners, and experts from The Salvation Army together in this way we can pool our resources to tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by victims and practitioners in new innovative and collaborative ways.”

Major Betteridge said: “The Modern Slavery Act (2015) was a ground-breaking piece of legislation that marked the UK as a world leader in the response to modern slavery, but only as a first step. Partnerships such as ours with the Wilberforce Institute are even more critical nearly ten years on.

“It is vital that the Modern Slavery Act is built on and the rights of survivors are advanced. Recent legislation has had the opposite effect and placed the protections that survivors of modern slavery need and deserve at risk.”

From Slavery to Freedom

The first milestone in the new partnership is a new annual learning event: a spring forum ‘From Slavery to Freedom' will be held on 1-2 May 2024 at The Regent Hall, Salvation Army Centre on London's Oxford Street.

The event is hosted by the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute, international partners and The Salvation Army, a worldwide Christian church and registered charity which has been fighting against social inequality and transforming lives for over 150 years.

Eleanor Lyons, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, will speak at this two-day forum which offers a unique shared opportunity to bring together specialist training, good practice guidance and input from researchers, practitioners, and survivors with lived experience to enable the vital exchange of ideas, interventions, and experience between different stakeholder groups that will improve responses and inform policy.

The true scale of modern slavery globally is almost impossible to accurately quantify. The Global Slavery Index (developed by an international team of researchers, including academics from the Wilberforce Institute) estimates there are currently around 50 million people living in situations of slavery globally on any given day (Walk Free 2023). The most prominent form of slavery in the world is labour exploitation with around 27.5 million trapped in this form of slavery globally (ILO 2023). In the UK in 2023 there were 17,004 referrals made for potential victims of modern slavery to the Home Office (Home Office 2024). Slavery and human trafficking are crimes punishable by severe penalties, yet the problem remains and is growing.

This two-day event will be held at The Regent Hall, Salvation Army Centre, Oxford Street, London. Full details including how to book can be found here.

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