Digital inclusion for survivors of modern slavery

This project funded by the AHRC Policy and Evidence Centre Policy (PEC), is led by Professor Simeon Yates and in collaboration with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA). This research aims to provide survivors of trafficking with access to online support services to help them recover and reintegrate into society. A lack of access to digital technologies can exacerbate inequalities and limit access to services.

The aim of this research is to seek to understand this shift to online support. We aim to help organisations in three ways: 

  • Explore how the research insights can support their day-to-day work 
  • What interventions would best support their clients, and 
  • How the findings could contribute to organisational, regional, and national policy, practice and investment decisions.

The research consists of 4 phases as follows: 

  • A systematic review of existing academic literature and policy reports on the provision of digital technologies or digital literacy training to survivors of modern slavery and survivors of other types of crime.
  • A delphi review of stakeholder organisations, academic researchers and policy experts on their experiences, concerns, and knowledge 
  • Semi-structured interviews with survivors of modern slavery to explore their experience and knowledge of:
  • Dissemination and stakeholder engagement.

A summary of our main findings and recommendations

Adults with lived experience of modern slavery must be provided with digital technology to assist in their recovery and reintegration into society. As a result of the shift to digital since COVID-19, those affected by modern slavery now have access to a wider range of online services.

Survivors highly value the benefits that come with using digital devices and the internet and use these for a number of everyday activities, including booking medical appointments, studying English, seeking job opportunities, and communicating with family and friends, among others.

Unfortunately, the provision of digital technology (from smartphone and tablets to laptops) and the funding required by organisations for such provision is both limited and inconsistent, as is the monitoring of the support given to survivors across the different organisations that operate in this area.

Furthermore, the digital training offered to survivors is generally ad-hoc and, while balance is needed between individualised, tailor-made support and formal training, opportunities for developing the digital skills and knowledge of survivors remain limited. Consequently, more is needed to equip survivors with an awareness of the risks that come with using the internet and how to stay safe online.

We recommend that the UK Government allocates increased funding to support the provision of digital technology and data by organisations to survivors as well as opportunities for digital training. A minimum digital requirement for survivors would consist of at least one smartphone, one laptop and a data package for survivors. Moreover, we recommend organisations explore the use of a centralised online portal so survivors can monitor their own reintegration journey.

Read the full report summary here.

Read the full Modern Slavery PEC Final Report [PDF 0.6MB]

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