Trafficking and exploitation strategy: fourth annual progress report - 2020 to 2021

Report setting out progress implementing the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy from 2020 to 2021.

Section 1

Included throughout this progress report are illustrative examples of collaborative work in Scotland to address human trafficking and its impacts, as well as quotations from survivors of trafficking which have been provided via Migrant Help, Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and The Anchor Service.

Action Area 1 – Identify victims and support them to safety and recovery

Victims of trafficking endure unimaginable horrors and have been recovered in all areas of Scotland. Action Area 1 focuses on ensuring effective support provision for trafficking victims, empowering victims to seek support and assistance and on public and professional awareness of human trafficking.

Action Area 1 brings together key partners from across Scotland and beyond, meeting on a quarterly basis, chaired by COSLA.

Membership of the group includes:

  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner's office
  • Justice and Care
  • JustRight Scotland
  • Migrant Help
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (The Anchor)
  • Police Scotland
  • Public Health Scotland
  • Scottish Business Resilience Centre
  • Scottish Community Safety Network
  • Scottish Government (human trafficking policy, homelessness policy)
  • Scottish Guardianship Service
  • Scottish Refugee Council
  • Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS)
  • TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance)

Looking back

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact across all parts of our communities.

Large numbers of people were made more vulnerable by the wider harms of the pandemic and regular methods of identifying and supporting victims were challenged. The impact occurred within the context of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in Scotland increasing significantly in 2019 and the third annual progress report set out the following areas for focus in 2020/21:

  • Analysis of the factors and trends driving increased NRM referrals;
  • Understanding the demographic groups driving referrals, and the internal and external factors behind this;
  • Use guidance (such as the NRM toolkit) to develop local practice;
  • Develop awareness of support services amongst victims and also within professional settings;
  • Develop further policy interventions at local and national level that can strengthen the fight against trafficking and support victims, including in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK's decision to leave the European Union;
  • Consider how survivor engagement can be maintained and strengthened to facilitate direct contributions to local and national policy and decision making.

Further detail can be found within this chapter.

Key outcome: people who encounter victims understand signs, know what to do and have access to specialist advice and support

Providing professionals and the wider public with the necessary tools to recognise indicators of human trafficking and exploitation and understanding how to respond appropriately continues to be a key outcome. Victims may not recognise their situation as one of exploitation and may not seek assistance, for a number of reasons.

Developing public awareness is an ongoing process and media campaigns have been delivered by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland in previous years. In March 2021, Police Scotland launched a national campaign "Break the Chain" through a webinar hosted by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC). The event featured speakers from the Modern Slavery Organised Immigration Crime Unit, Police Scotland, SBRC and Brightwork Recruitment. The campaign focused on labour exploitation and associated indicators and was supported by a dedicated webpage[1] where additional information was made available to businesses and the wider public.

The third annual progress report set out plans to explore the development of regional partnerships. Action Area 1 considered this model, which has proven effective in other parts of the UK in coordinating groups of local authorities, police, health and other partners to focus more deeply on the particular issues of a local area.

Following discussions with key stakeholders, the group, led by COSLA, decided that further consideration of a regional approach is required. Ensuring clear referral pathways are in place for potential victims of trafficking is vital and embedding the NRM toolkit[2] (see below) may provide an opportunity to explore this in practice. Action Area 1 will continue to reflect on a regional approach as the group explores more localised data across Scotland.

As noted in the third annual progress report, several Action Area 1 partners and First Responder organisations in Scotland met in early 2020 to commence work on the development of a NRM toolkit. The working group, led by TARA, continued to engage virtually throughout the pandemic.

The toolkit provides First Responder organisations and their frontline teams with the local and global human trafficking and exploitation context, the legislative framework, the purpose of the NRM, guidance on how to best complete an NRM referral and advice on what to expect once a referral is submitted. The toolkit also takes a trauma-informed approach to identifying vulnerable adults and children and provides helpful advice on how to provide a safe environment to encourage potential victims to disclose their experiences.

With the support of Glasgow City Council, the toolkit was developed in an interactive format, with a key focus on ease of use and being able to support frontline teams at their point of need. The toolkit launched via social media in March 2021 and was distributed to all local authorities in Scotland and throughout professional networks. However, publication of the toolkit is only the first step to embedding awareness of support pathways. It will be important to use the toolkit to develop local practice and process. The resource will be reviewed regularly and Action Area 1 will identify and agree any required updates in relation to the NRM process or to reflect Scotland's evolving response to the identification and protection of victims.

The third annual progress report noted that, in 2019, COSLA published guidance[3] for frontline local authority staff and managers to support them in their local area. The pandemic has made clear that this guidance, while still appropriate, requires updating to reflect the changing circumstances of the last 18 months and to take into account the evolving demand for a sophisticated response. COSLA plan to review and update this guidance to ensure it meets the needs of local authority staff.

Referrals of UK nationals to the NRM from Scotland, while increasing, remain disproportionately low compared to trends in other areas of the UK. Led by COSLA, Action Area 1 has developed a working group which will assess available data and trends and consider what further information could be accessed to provide a more holistic picture of the scale and nature of the issue and inform future policy interventions within Scotland.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service continues to apply the Lord Advocate's Instructions to ensure that victims of trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour who have been compelled to commit criminal offences as a consequence thereof are not prosecuted. In response to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in VCL & AN v United Kingdom the Lord Advocate's Instructions have been updated to make explicit that:

− Prosecutors should direct Police Scotland to refer all potential victims of trafficking or exploitation to the NRM (although for adults this is only possible if they consent to the referral) if not already done so; and

− Prosecutors should await the outcome of the NRM process, i.e. the Conclusive Grounds Decision, before making final decisions about prosecution of potential victims of trafficking or exploitation unless there is no alternative.

The Lord Advocate's Instructions are complemented by a clearly defined structure to ensure consistency and expertise in decision making. When prosecutors suspect that an accused person may be a victim of trafficking or exploitation they are instructed to submit a report to the National Lead Prosecutor for Human Trafficking and Exploitation. Those reports address whether the test in the Lord Advocate's Instructions is met and what further steps are appropriate in light of that conclusion. The number of reports submitted to the National Lead Prosecutor has risen year on year since the implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.

The National Lead Prosecutor, a highly experienced High Court prosecutor, carefully considers the facts and circumstances of each individual case and makes the final decision on whether the test in the Lord Advocate's Instructions has been satisfied. In cases in which the test is satisfied, the National Lead Prosecutor directs that "No Action" or "No Further Action" be taken by prosecutors. If the National Lead Prosecutor considers that further information is required before making a final decision, she may direct that the accused person be invited to apply to the court for bail, if he or she is remanded, pending the outcome of further inquiries.

Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021:

  • 48 cases involving 70 accused persons were reported to the National Lead Prosecutor for human trafficking for consideration of taking no action or discontinuing proceedings on the basis of the Lord Advocate's Instructions; and
  • To date, no action or no further action was taken in respect of 7 of those accused persons on the basis that the test within the Lord Advocate's Instructions was met.

Training events during the reporting period were carried out virtually due to public health measures. Experience in early 2020 demonstrated an ability to take forward multi-agency sessions with national reach and with high levels of representation from more remote areas of Scotland. Attendees noted that online accessibility was a key enabler in attendance, with location previously a key barrier to participation due to time constraints and expense. It was noted that difficulties attending in-person events can lead to exclusion from professional networks and result in the underrepresentation of island and rural communities.

TARA produced a short paper reviewing their training offer, including consideration of a Scotland-wide approach. Following discussion across all Strategy implementation groups, a training group, drawn from each Action Area and the Child Trafficking Strategy Group, has been identified. The group will take forward analysis of existing training/resources and consider the development of a strategic approach to training and awareness raising in this area.

Key outcome: coherent person/child- centred support process that enables victims to recover and build resilience

After identification, it is essential that specialist support and assistance is available to underpin victims' recovery from the physical, psychological and social harms that they may have experienced.

The Scottish Government provided support for victims of human trafficking and exploitation through continued funding of TARA and Migrant Help. TARA supports female victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, reflecting the particular impacts on this group of survivors, and Migrant Help supports all other adult trafficking victims.

As noted in the third annual progress report, TARA and Migrant Help received a significant uplift in funding for 2020/21 to reflect the increasing number of trafficking victims requiring support in Scotland and they will share over £1.4 million in 2021/22. The pandemic presented numerous challenges for both support providers as they maintained a 24/7 crisis response and ongoing support to clients. A system of rota-based office and home working was implemented to ensure that as a vital frontline service, clients continued to have access to essential services such as secure accommodation, food banks, crisis counselling sessions and access to staff when required. TARA worked closely with numerous local and national organisations to ensure comprehensive support. TARA also provided vital telephone support and women have since expressed how important this was for their wellbeing, particularly during the most restrictive lockdown periods. TARA utilised donations from the Tumbling Lassie Committee to purchase televisions for very isolated women and their children, leading to improvements in wellbeing whilst in lockdown.

With the easing of restrictions in summer 2020 and growing concerns regarding women's social isolation, TARA arranged outdoor social events for service users and their children.

Migrant Help maintained their partnership with Brightwork Recruitment to provide employment opportunities to survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. Although many victims do not have the necessary status to work in the UK, Migrant Help have had notable success in supporting several clients into the workplace through their partnership with Brightwork, who have provided significant support. Accessing employment can be a major step in the journey of a survivor toward greater independence and improved overall wellbeing.

Access to digital technology

The early phase of the pandemic highlighted the difficulties in maintaining service provision while pivoting to a remote support model. Digital exclusion was a significant issue, affecting survivors supported by both TARA and Migrant Help. Devices were initially accessed through the Connecting Scotland Fund and following this, the Scottish Government worked closely with both organisations to ensure funding was available to purchase smartphones or other digital devices for all survivors. This helped to remove barriers to recovery and enable face to face communication between client and support provider.

Provision of devices has also facilitated remote psychological support delivered by The Anchor and access to online English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, which can play a vital role in assisting victims of trafficking to integrate within communities.

In early 2021, TARA conducted a retrospective snapshot survey with 52 clients. The survey aimed to capture women's views at various stages of the pandemic. This qualitative feedback demonstrated the provision of digital devices coincided with improved understanding of COVID-19 public health guidance, increased feelings of wellbeing and mood, reduced feelings of social isolation, and improved access to TARA and other support services.

Access to digital devices also significantly improved TARA's response to the small number of women who decline access to their safe accommodation but require support and are staying outside of the Glasgow area. Strong relationships have been formed during periods of public health restrictions and TARA have been able to work with the Encompass Network or Violence Against Women Partnerships to ensure women are able to access local, in-person supports alongside TARA's specialist service.

Through Scottish Government funding, both TARA and Migrant Help continue to provide clients with digital devices.

In consultation with the Scottish Government, the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre[4] has developed a research proposal which will assess the provision of such devices and help inform longer-term policy decisions.

"When I arrived in Glasgow, I did not know anything and now I feel happier and safe. Thank you to my worker for all of your help/support and all of the staff at TARA."

The Scottish Government significantly increased support in 2021/22 for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Psychological Trauma Service (The Anchor) to reflect the increase in referrals. The Anchor continues to provide psychological assessment, treatment and legal reports for adult victims, alongside regular consultation with TARA and Migrant Help. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Anchor have adapted services to meet mental health needs. Psychological assessments continue to be offered alongside the delivery of safety, stabilisation and other trauma-focused psychological interventions. A range of methods have been deployed to deliver this support, including telephone appointments and videoconferencing.

The Anchor have also adjusted their psycho-education information session to make it suitable for video, including translating into different languages so it is accessible to a wide range of clients. Service users can watch online at a time that is convenient to them and then arrange an appointment with a clinician to discuss. Remote group intervention work has been successfully delivered.

Where an individual aged 16 and over is known or believed to be at risk of harm in terms of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007, a referral should be made to the local authority or Health and Social Care Partnership. Where Health Boards, Councils, Police Scotland, Mental Welfare Commission, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Care Inspectorate and the Office of the Public Guardian know or believe an adult is at risk of harm they have a duty to report the facts and circumstances of the case to the local authority for the area in which it considers the person to be. The above public bodies have a statutory duty to make a referral when they know or believe an adult to be at risk of harm, but an Adult Protection referral can be made by any source. Where the person is 16 or 17 years of age, advice should be sought locally as to whether they should be referred in terms of adult or child protection. An adult is defined as being at risk of harm where they are:

  • unable to safeguard their own well- being, property, rights or other interests;
  • are at risk of harm; and
  • because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity, are more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected.

All three elements of the definition must be met.

In this context, an adult is at risk of harm if another person's conduct is causing (or is likely to cause) the adult to be harmed, or the adult is engaging (or is likely to engage) in conduct which causes (or is likely to cause) self-harm. This report will be shared with Adult Protection Committees to ensure they remain informed of human trafficking policy developments and to raise awareness with all partners of the potential connection between the two policy areas in practice.

As noted in the third annual progress report, JustRight Scotland participated in a two-year EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund project "ASSIST: Gender-Specific Legal Assistance and Integration Support for Third Country National Female Victims of Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation", which concluded in December 2020.

The project focused on the integration of trafficked women recovering from sexual exploitation, taking into account the gender dimension of trafficking in Europe and the gender-specific harms and trauma associated with trafficking for sexual exploitation. Legal advice was provided, alongside information and support in accessing material assistance (social and financial).

The project concluded with a national dissemination event where JustRight Scotland and key partners discussed the importance of focusing on medium to long term outcomes for those identified as victims of trafficking in Scotland and launched the Know Your Rights booklet[5] as well as a Best Practice Report on Assisting Trafficked Women.[6] Building on these resources, a suite of accessible factsheets[7] for all adult third-country nationals who have experienced trafficking, covering a wide range of topics, such as identification of trafficking, immigration, compensation, legal, health, housing, education, and employment have been developed.

Action Area 1 has taken a strong interest in the proposals contained within the UK Government's New Plan for Immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill. The group will continue to focus on ensuring support processes in Scotland are accessible and victim-centred.

Key outcome: victims are aware of support and trust it enough to ask for help Engaging victims of human trafficking and exploitation with support services can be a challenge given the nature of their experiences. Traffickers may utilise concerns about immigration status or other vulnerabilities to dissuade victims from seeking to exit their situation. Once identified, it is therefore vital for services to develop trust with victims so they feel comfortable reaching out to those who can provide help.

In March 2021, TARA coordinated the first meeting of their Advisory Group. The aim of the Group is to enable women's views, lived experiences and expertise influence a range of issues including review and development of the TARA Service, policy and legal developments and other frontline responses.

Early legal advice remains a key intervention in supporting victim recovery. During 2020/21, 28 women accessed the legal advice clinic operated by TARA and JustRight Scotland. Advice was provided on a variety of issues including entering the NRM, immigration and asylum, EU Settlement Scheme, Criminal Injuries Compensation and the criminal justice system.

TARA and JustRight Scotland legal advice clinic

Korina was trafficked to Scotland for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation from an Eastern European country. Korina had just exited a situation of commercial sexual exploitation and was referred to the TARA Service in the autumn of 2019. Korina had co-operated with Police Scotland and was intensively supported by TARA in their crisis accommodation. However, she wished to return to her home country immediately.

TARA explained to Korina about the weekly legal clinic and arranged for her to meet with a lawyer from JustRight Scotland (JRS). At the legal clinic, Korina was given advice on her immigration position, return to her home country, the NRM, the criminal justice process and compensation.

Korina would not have received such wide-ranging holistic advice about her rights if the legal clinic did not exist or was not so accessible within TARA. It is unlikely she would have arranged an appointment with a solicitor to discuss these matters as her pressing concern was to return home. Even if she had, the capacity of solicitors and resultant waiting times for an appointment would have made this very difficult within the short window of time that existed in this case.

TARA also arranged for her to speak to an international specialist Non-Governmental Organisation so she could learn more about the support available on her return to Eastern Europe. Korina agreed to be referred to the NGO and TARA conducted a return risk assessment with her and Police Scotland and supported her to return.

JRS and TARA continued to engage with Korina after she left Scotland in partnership with a specialist NGO in her home country. JRS continued to provide advice and representation in relation to the NRM identification process, the criminal justice process and they submitted an application for criminal injuries compensation.

JRS proactively engaged with the NRM process, on Korina's behalf, to ensure that a decision was forthcoming. There was a risk that one would not have been made as she had left the UK. JRS and TARA also engaged with Police Scotland around this case, including the bail conditions of the accused and the return of property taken in evidence.

Korina received compensation in late 2020 as a result of her experiences. This was an important outcome because on return to her home country, her family disowned her and due to difficulties with the economic situation as a result of COVID-19, she was in a position of vulnerability again making the risks of further exploitation higher. The compensation Korina received was life changing, giving her the ability to obtain longer term secure accommodation and have options for her future. It provides an opportunity for Korina to start again thus acting as a significant preventative measure. This would not have happened without JRS being able to meet her at the TARA legal clinic as well as being able to engage and work in partnership with TARA, Police Scotland and the international specialist NGOs throughout.

Migrant Help have continued their partnership with JustRight Scotland throughout 2020/21 to ensure fortnightly legal clinics were available for service users. The clinics initially provided clients with advice on compensation, but expanded to include a wider range of topics. Over 60 Migrant Help clients accessed the legal clinics and through Scottish Government funding the clinic will run weekly in 2021/22.

Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS) is a Scottish charity committed to the recovery of victims of trafficking and the long-term wellbeing of survivors in Scotland. SOHTIS has equipped approximately 500 frontline staff in organisations who support vulnerable groups at risk of human trafficking, such as those accessing homeless accommodation, to identify potential victims. This has resulted in increased identifications enabling individuals to be brought to safety. During the pandemic SOHTIS developed crucial links with providers of emergency homeless accommodation improving victim engagement and carried out a partnership investigation into potential forced begging in Edinburgh.[8]

During 2020/21, SOHTIS assisted Local Authorities and other statutory services in the development of local human trafficking strategies and responses through "Project Light."[9]

Research has shown that the journey from victim to survivor is one that few people are able to make alone and that long-term support is vital in ending the cycle of exploitation and preventing re- trafficking. SOHTIS launched Project Integrate in January 2021 with the aim of strengthening independent living, reducing vulnerability and empowering survivors to regain control of their lives. Acknowledging the transgenerational effects of human trafficking, the Project also includes a professional birthing year support service for women who are pregnant. SOHTIS has received 45 referrals to this service in the first three months of opening.

"My favourite time was when I could attend the art class where I spent a good time and made a few friends. I cannot think of any suggestion regarding the support, everything was perfect."

Looking forward

A key area of focus will be ensuring current resources are deployed as effectively as possible. That means refreshing and reviewing our guidance, training, learning and awareness raising resources, and targeting them more effectively. The rapid transition to remote working provided an effective way of communicating with a geographically dispersed range of professionals and this should be harnessed to expand the accessibility of learning opportunities.

Linked to this, Action Area 1 will play a key role in the development of a strategic approach to training and awareness raising, which will include representation from the other Action Areas and the Child Trafficking Strategy Group.

We will take forward a small working group to analyse a range of data sources, including those published by the Home Office in relation to Scotland. This group will look to identify trends or patterns to human trafficking and exploitation across the country and which may inform the development of a strategic training approach.

Action Area 1 will continue to assess the UK Nationality and Borders Bill, prioritising a victim-centred and trauma-informed approach to identification and support.



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