Healthcare can help identify victims of modern slavery

Ahead of the CNO Summit in March, the Anti-Slavery Partnership Coordinator for Kent and Essex Police highlights the importance of working together to address the issue:

An important milestone in the fight against slavery and for social justice came when the Modern Slavery Act was enacted in March 2015.

It unified and simplified previous legislation, giving statutory agencies new powers. And it increased sentencing powers and strengthened protection for survivors while also establishing the first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Home Office estimated in 2014 that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking in the UK, however, a recent statement released by the Director of Vulnerabilities at National Crime Agency, Will Kerr, states this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’

Organised Crime Groups who profit from exploiting a human being, work within a complex structure and will target any member of a community that is seen as weak and vulnerable.

The vulnerabilities they target are mental health, physical disabilities, learning difficulties, poor education, broken backgrounds such as domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, drug and alcohol dependencies, poverty, areas with low socio-economic infrastructure and financial difficulties.

During 2016, there were 3,805 potential victims of Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking identified and referred into the National Referral Mechanism for support in a number of areas such as psychological and physical support, family support, legal support and a place of safety. During the same year, 108 nationalities were identified and 3,499 potential victims referred from England. In contrast, in 2014 before the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was introduced, there were only 2,340 potential victims identified.

Over the last two years, we have identified a number of areas in which healthcare may hold a vital role in identifying and safeguarding potential victims, and we have worked with national organisations such as NHS England to highlight the important role that all health care staff in the NHS have in identifying and responding to modern slavery.

Areas across health and care such as midwifery, emergency departments, sexual health clinics, GP surgeries and community nursing, teams may come into contact first with potential victims unknowingly.

One such case is a lady that was identified by an emergency department nurse following a serious assault that left her with life changing physical injuries. During the care and support provided through the nursing teams and others, it became known that this individual was abused and trafficked for 11 years whilst forced to commit a number of criminal activities as well as being sexually abused. She continues to be supported by the Healthcare sector as more surgery is needed to repair the harm caused several years ago.

Understanding how this criminality features within these sectors, training frontline healthcare teams and updating existing safeguarding procedures will greatly assist with the fight against these crimes that remove the identity of a human being and forces them into a situation where they are silenced and helpless.

Understanding the fear and the strength of the psychological chains placed on potential victims highlight how difficult it is for a potential victim to approach a Law Enforcement Agency and disclose what is happening to them. Whereas, within the health and care sector, opportunities to identify the indicators of these crimes such as the physical or mental health indicators are high which will offer a first point of contact safeguarding and support opportunity that could otherwise be missed.

At the 2018 CNO Summit, Kevin Hyland, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner and I will be leading a session to assist you in implementing new processes and plans so that your teams are better prepared to deal with the complex nature of the impact these crimes have on a person. This interactive session will complement the existing training, support and excellent guidance that is already available within the NHS.

Our session will help improve your understanding of what modern day slavery and human trafficking is, what an Organised Crime Group is and how they operate, the areas of exploitation we find people in and the impact that these crimes have on the victims we identify.

I look forward to meeting you all at the CNO Summit and hearing your stories about work you have done locally to address the issue of modern slavery.

  • The 2018 CNO Summit will be held at the Liverpool Arena and Conference Centre on March 7 and 8.
Cristina Gavrilovic

Cristina Gavrilovic was appointed as the Anti-Slavery Partnership Coordinator for Essex Police and Kent Police Serious Crime Directorate in 2016. Since her appointment a record number of 500 victims have been identified through her work that saw a number of sectors joined and supported in actively participating in the fight against Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking.

She has the opportunity to address the gaps in our social justice system, ensuring organisations put Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at the top of their agenda and that victims are at the heart of decision making. This area of her work was recognised by the British Association of Women in Policing where she was awarded Best Police Staff of the Year.

Cristina’s formative years were in Romania, where she experienced a growing awareness of the injustice of a broken system failing individuals living below the poverty line, experiencing domestic violence, and where children went missing. This is an area where Cristina is a strong Ambassador for having recently won the prestigious award of Women of the Future in the Community Spirit category.

Cristina has been seeking the right education, opportunities and paths that allowed her to develop the infrastructures required to address these issues. She has implemented an inclusive model upon which strong partnerships are build and maintained and this model has won her national recognition from the Marsh Awards for Outstanding Contribution to the Fight against Slavery.

Cristina has recently been invited to become a Fellow Associate of the Royal Commonwealth Society where she hopes that her work will influence and support many communities across the Commonwealth countries and engage with younger generations to build a stronger resilience against abuse and exploitation.

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