Nearly half of modern slavery survivors in England and Wales are not receiving adequate psychological support, despite the urgent need for such assistance, according to a new report published today. The research, conducted by the University of Birmingham, the University of Nottingham, and the Survivor Alliance, funded by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre and Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC), sought to assess survivors’ experiences in seeking and receiving psychological support.
This comprehensive study involved 90 survivors and 26 service providers from various regions across England and Wales. The key findings indicated that while a majority of participants had access to some form of mental health aid, around 44% felt the support they received was not sufficient to address their needs.
The report quotes one survivor stating, “They don’t differentiate between different types of therapy, they just go, oh you got therapy and that’s okay. There’s no individual assessment to say whether that person’s got the right therapy.” These statements highlight the need for a more personalized, case-by-case approach in providing psychological care to survivors.
According to the report, 97% of survivors expressed a need for psychological assistance, and 81% had received some form of support, such as individual counselling, group support, or wellbeing activities. However, many survivors raised the need for holistic and culturally-appropriate assistance.
Notably, survivors emphasized the importance of having providers who understand the unique challenges faced by victims of modern slavery. Other key issues included a lack of financial support for travel to access services and unsuitable accommodation, both contributing to poor mental wellbeing among 26% of survivors.
Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Professor of Gender-Based Violence and Health at the University of Birmingham and co-author of the report, discussed the global implications of these findings. “For the nearly 50 million people around the world affected by modern slavery, the trauma that individuals experience threatens to affect their wellbeing long after they have been able to escape exploitation,” she stated.
Nancy Esiovwa from the Survivor Alliance underscored the importance of survivors’ involvement in the research process. She commented on the discrepancy between how survivors and practitioners view mental wellbeing. Unlike practitioners who focus on individual mental health challenges, survivors often consider broader issues such as immigration status, lack of access to jobs, or education as integral factors affecting their overall wellbeing.
In a pioneering approach, seven survivors were recruited as peer researchers for the project to gain a more authentic understanding of the experiences and barriers faced by survivors. Liz Williams, Policy Impact Manager at the Modern Slavery PEC, highlighted the importance of survivor involvement in research. “Only by including survivors as peer researchers we can truly understand what is key to survivors’ wellbeing and recovery and for policies and programmes to support it,” she asserted.
This study provides crucial insights into the needs and experiences of survivors of modern slavery, emphasizing the urgent necessity for individualized, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive psychological assistance. The researchers hope that this investigation will catalyse significant changes in how support services are designed and delivered, ultimately enhancing the wellbeing and recovery of survivors.