The West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network Safe Place, Paul Withrington, Migrants at Work and The Willow Team
Rebuilding Lives – The West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network’s Safe Place Project
The Safe Place Project is an independently supported, pre-National Referral safehouse for men who have experienced exploitation, addressing a gap in the sector’s support provision. The project initially focuses on the men’s basic needs such as food, clothing, accommodation, subsistence and access to medical services. The project then considers each individual’s rights and entitlement to support as a survivor of Modern Slavery. Safe Place has Advice and Advocacy coordinators who work with other key organisations to help service users understand what help they should be getting and how they can advocate for themselves in the future. The key principle of the project is choice for the service user. Although the project’s support is often short and temporary, the long-term impacts for the survivors can be drastic. Survivors leave Safe Place with a greater understanding of their rights, and with an ability to advocate for them in the future.
Reducing Vulnerabilities – Paul Withrington, Porchlight
Paul has been going over and above in his duties for survivors of Modern Slavery, proactively identifying and safeguarding victims since 2019. He champions for improvements to the Modern Slavery response, not only within his organisation Porchlight, but also within his network of safeguarding colleagues. Historically, Porchlight has always worked within the homelessness sector, but has not always identified exploitation and human trafficking. Prior to Paul joining, they had 26 internal reports of suspected exploitation in three years, but during Covid alone they have had over 70 reports of various levels of exploitation among clients. Paul has also started an innovative drop-in clinic, in partnership with the Medaille Trust, for vulnerable female clients who are experiencing Modern Slavery or Domestic Abuse. There have been numerous occasions where Paul has picked up on cases that are Modern Slavery related and that others have missed. Paul always goes above and beyond for clients that are vulnerable and has built a support infrastructure to improve the positive outcomes for survivors.
Empowering Survivor Voices – Migrants at Work
Migrants at Work tackles labour exploitation and work-place discrimination of migrant workers and is led by those with lived experience of these issues. One area they focus on highlights issues caused by the Home Office’s ‘Right to Work Check’ system, through which migrant workers are regularly, mistakenly, told they do not have a legal right to work, thus losing jobs in part through errors in the system. This then heightens the risks of them becoming victims of Modern Slavery, as they find themselves put into a vulnerable economic position. This issue is not currently well understood by employers or migrant workers, which makes the work of this organisation all the more important. Migrants at Work works in partnership with migrant communities, individual migrant workers, employers, Government departments, NGOs and EU Embassies to raise awareness and understanding, and to seek policy change and legal challenge around this dangerous issue.
Statutory Services – Willow Team, Hampshire Children’s Services
Willow Team is a specialist, multi-agency team working to support children that are missing, exploited and trafficked. They provide a holistic approach to supporting young people being exploited through Modern Slavery. ‘Frankie Workers’ offer a dedicated counselling service for child victims of sexual abuse, named after Frankie, an adult survivor of child sexual abuse who is now in her 20s. Willow Team’s interventions include exploring risk-taking behaviours, understanding grooming and exploring exploitation to help children better understand their previous experiences and help promote change. While they predominately work directly with children, they also offer advice and support to other services on exploitation. They have close links with partners across health, sexual health, education, the third sector and police special teams. The Willow Team work had in a busy, demanding, and dynamic area of Children’s Services. The team have a shared desire to improve the lives of the children they support by looking to improve outcomes across their various spectrum of needs.