Home News Commonweal funds research exploring how a Whole Housing Approach can support survivors of modern slavery
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Lauren Aronin

Lauren is the Communications Officer at Commonweal Housing

Commonweal funds research exploring how a Whole Housing Approach can support survivors of modern slavery

Commonweal Housing has recently provided funding to UK-based charity The Human Trafficking Foundation to explore how a process similar to a Whole Housing Approach, currently set up to house survivors of domestic abuse, can be replicated for survivors of modern slavery.

The Human Trafficking Foundation grew out of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking to support charities and NGOs operating to combat human trafficking in the UK and influence policy-makers.

Previous research by The Human Trafficking Foundation identifies clear links between accommodation and exploitation for victims of modern slavery, with their housing arrangement often attached to forced labour. Equally, victims of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude often face exploitation within their accommodation setting, meaning many risk homelessness when fleeing exploitation.

While survivors of modern slavery can access safe housing under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the government framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support – the support is severely limited. Recently campaigners have warned that since the Nationality and Borders Act came into effect this February, four in five potential victims are unable to access immediate support through the NRM.

Moreover, although there are statutory duties for local authorities in response to modern slavery, gaps in housing support often put survivors at risk of homelessness or being re-exploited by criminal gangs. This is especially the case when exiting NRM support as there is little guarantee of the long-term, stable housing needed to aid recovery. A 2021 study of those who experienced both modern slavery and homelessness by homeless charity Crisis found of the total 331 individuals in the study, one in five were still homeless once they had exited the NRM.

The Whole Housing Approach is a framework for addressing the housing and safety needs of survivors of domestic abuse in a local area, established by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) alongside the National Housing and Domestic Abuse Policy and Practice Group. Under one umbrella, it brings together all the main housing tenure types, housing options and support initiatives needed to help people experiencing domestic abuse access safe and stable housing, including private rented accommodation and social housing. 

By reviewing and understanding the strengths and challenges of the Whole Housing Approach for those experiencing domestic abuse, the research seeks to explore how the model could be adapted to ensure survivors of modern slavery have access to suitable accommodation.

The research will be released in due course, and to help raise awareness of the findings, Commonweal will work alongside the Human Trafficking Foundation to distribute the learnings to stakeholders across the human trafficking and modern slavery sector and policy-makers.

Funding for the research follows Commonweal’s general shift toward issues relating to human trafficking and migration for the commencing years. In light of Commonweal’s steer in focus, the charity recently funded and supported research capturing learnings from the Homes for Ukraine scheme by modern slavery experts at Nottingham University’s Rights Lab and Hope at Home.

Amy Doyle, Deputy Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “For survivors of domestic abuse, evidence points towards a Whole Housing Approach providing individual support to ensure survivors have access to safe housing. As such, we are pleased to fund this research in the hope it will shed light on how a whole housing approach could provide the same much-needed umbrella support for survivors of modern slavery.”

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