The councils in the Humberside area have developed an emergency housing protocol to provide accommodation for victims of modern slavery in the period before they enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
The Humberside region comprises four councils – Hull, East Riding, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire – and has a mix of rural and urban areas. In 2020, the region saw issues ranging from child criminal exploitation and county lines, to labour exploitation in local agriculture businesses, to human trafficking through the region’s ports.
In 2015, the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership formed. Originally a grassroots organisation which focused on building its understanding of modern slavery in the region and raising awareness in the local community, it is now funded by the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner and hosted at the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.
The partnership is now focusing its efforts on ensuring that there is a strong local support and accommodation offer. It identified a need for emergency accommodation which could be provided quickly and in a safe location if new victims were identified.
The emergency housing protocol was developed in response to this need. It allows a range of stakeholders in the Humber region to refer individuals whom they have identified as being a potential victim to a single point of contact in their local council’s adult social care teams. Potential victims will then undergo a safeguarding assessment and be referred to the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) within the council, who will carry out an NRM referral and secure emergency accommodation for the period before individuals enter the NRM.
If the MASH feels that a victim needs emergency accommodation outside their own area – either based on the individual’s wishes or their safeguarding needs - they can refer them to another Humber partnership council, who will accommodate them under the protocol. The four councils manage allocations by holding a brief case conference meeting after each referral is received.
Partnership staff may act as a broker between different stakeholders and the individual councils, if necessary, to ensure that the accommodation offer is timely and suitable. As well as ensuring that accommodation is available for individuals, this has helped with wider strategic goals, such as timely hospital discharge.
The protocol has been accompanied by intensive work to raise awareness amongst stakeholders, as this is crucial to identifying cases and referring them into support. Most important has been a set of workshops delivered by the partnership and the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre, and hosted by the University of Hull. These bring together stakeholders to consider how they might respond to a hypothetical modern slavery case. They have been very valuable in building local interest, and promoting reflection, learning, and conversation amongst stakeholders, and the Partnership and the Policy and Evidence Centre have shared a toolkit based on the workshops to all modern slavery coordinators across the country.
The partnership has now expanded to online provision, with Hull City Council providing an e-learning package available to all council staff. This is intended to help staff to identify victims and refer them to support.