Digital inclusion for survivors of modern slavery

Funded by the AHRC Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (MSPEC), this project was led by Professor Simeon Yates and conducted in partnership with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA). This study explored the ways in which survivors of modern slavery use digital technologies to receive support and reintegrate into UK society.

The aims of this study were:

  • To identify what day-to-day challenges and best practices look like in the context of how civil society organisations support survivors of modern slavery both online and offline.
  • To explore how to best support organisations’ day-to-day work both within and outside of the National Referral Mechanism (i.e., the framework used in the UK to identify and support survivors of modern slavery).
  • To shed light on the experiences of those affected by modern slavery in ways that relate to their use of digital technologies and account for wider and systemic issues of digital inequalities.
  • To provide recommendations for policymakers, organisations and researchers working in this area.

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 'Evaluating the Provision of Distributed Technology to Adults with Lived Experience of Modern Slavery' report here.

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