Our latest blog by Ali Miller, Development Officer for domestic abuse and modern slavery
We are constantly looking at how to put human rights at the centre of our work or, as the British Institute of Human Rights put it, ‘make human rights happen’. I think everyone involved in Shared Lives does this without realising it a lot of the time. All the Shared Lives schemes, carers and hosts that I know are committed to promoting choice and autonomy: providing family homes where people feel free to express themselves and be who they are. Human rights underpin everything we do, but that doesn’t mean our work is finished: it’s vital that we keep making human rights live and ongoing.
With this in mind, we’re looking to explore how we can support Shared Lives carers, hosts and schemes to adapt and strengthen our practice. One very practical way we can meet more people’s human rights is by engaging new groups of people who need support. We recently joined a partnership with Crisis, the national charity for homeless people and Hestia, the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in London, after securing Tampon Tax funding. Together, we are working to pilot a Shared Lives offer for victims of modern slavery.
When you think about it, every one of us is an agent of change in our own lives. Shared Lives carers and hosts are so often the people who help amplify the agency and energy of others so they can claim and experience the rights that are absolutely theirs.
Article 4 of the Human Rights Act acknowledges ‘Freedom from slavery and forced labour’ as an absolute right, which must not be restricted. Modern slavery is a serious crime in which people are coerced or deceived into a situation where they are exploited, for the purpose of making profit. It takes many forms including trafficking for sexual exploitation (prostitution, strip clubs, and pornography), domestic servitude (working as cleaners, carers or nannies) and forced labour in work such as nail bars and car washes, among others.
This project focuses specifically on female victims who are homeless or precariously housed as it is funded by the Tampon Tax. Women who escape modern slavery are particularly vulnerable to re-exploitation by predatory individuals who may offer accommodation, preying on people’s vulnerabilities including homelessness, destitution and learned behaviour; rough sleepers are systematically targeted by traffickers. This is part of the cycle which can keep female victims in forced labour and slavery. However, we hope that the learning from this project will provide the groundwork for us to support male survivors in the future.
Victims and potential victims of modern slavery have a right to accommodation and support; developing new and diverse ways of delivering this can help people exercise and benefit from this right. The beauty of Shared Lives is that by its nature, our schemes, carers and hosts are naturally adept at meeting people’s needs on the doorstep, without judgement and with adaptability and empathy. This is why we see the Shared Lives model as having great potential to meet the needs of victims of modern slavery.
At this early stage of the project, I would love to hear from anyone who has engaged with victims of modern slavery, including the services, referrers and commissioners.
I’m especially keen to hear from Shared Lives schemes in London, where we have a high level of specialist partners, but welcome input from professionals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org