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Funding call: distributed technology for survivors

Re-opened: call for responsive research proposals on evaluating the provision of distributed technology to adults with lived experience of modern slavery.

Published: 25th November 2021

Funding call re-opened

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (the Modern Slavery PEC) has re-opened a targeted call for proposals on a research project evaluating the provision of distributed technology to adults with lived experience of modern slavery.

Following helpful feedback, we have re-opened this funding call, originally launched September 2021, to include the following changes:

  1. Project timeframe extended to six months (from four months), with scope to discuss timeframes with the successful applicant.
  2. Increase of maximum budget to £80,000 (from £75,000) at 100% Full Economic Cost (FEC).
  3. We have specified the number of initiatives that we would like researchers to consider to include at least one in Scotland and at least two initiatives in England and Wales.
  4. We have amended the scope of the research to make it more flexible for the research teams. We have made the objective on assessing the role of distributed technology provided to survivors of other types of crime and how it can be used to connect vulnerable groups (objective E) "desirable" rather than "essential".
  5. We have made the requirements for key elements of the research more flexible, so that they can be confirmed in collaboration with the Modern Slavery PEC rather than being pre-fixed at the point of application.

The deadline for applications is at 4pm (UK time) on 11 January 2022.

Improving survivor recovery and support and understanding longer-term outcomes are priority research areas for the Modern Slavery PEC. Improving evidence on this issue is a priority for multiple stakeholder groups working to address modern slavery. Through an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) open call process, the Modern Slavery PEC has recently funded five research projects on this area which are all exploring longer term outcomes for people with lived experience of modern slavery.

The PEC is seeking to complement these existing projects through calls for additional research to fill other priority evidence gaps on the theme of survivor recovery. This call relates to research exploring how support services have adapted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the related impact on people’s well-being and recovery and on safeguarding. The other calls focuses on survivors’ experiences of access to legal advice.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations supporting people with lived experience of modern slavery were forced to move to providing support remotely, including by phone and online. Currently, provision of technology to individuals in receipt of NRM support is not part of the standard support package. NGOs have raised concerns about ‘digital exclusion’ among adult victims and survivors and some support providers have had concerns about the risk of digital access in certain instances. Some subcontracted support providers have received donated devices from the private sector for service users. During the Covid-19 pandemic, funding from the Home Office and Scottish Government was provided to enable subcontractors to adapt how they provided support, under the umbrella term of ‘distributed technology’, including phones, smartphones, computer hardware and software, and associated data packages to enable internet access.

There has been some initial research into digital devices for NRM service users: a TARA (support provider in Scotland) snapshot survey of service users, and research from Unseen and University of Bristol, have both examined how service users viewed donated smartphones and research assessed a pilot project offering music therapy to trafficked women in a safe house, including via video conferencing. Findings show that service users were positive about smartphones and accessing online support services, however existing research has largely focused on the impact of smartphones on wellbeing, with more limited focus on the potential safety risks posed and the longer-term opportunities and implications of distributed technology for how support services are delivered, especially as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

The outputs from this research project will contribute to the growing evidence base about the role of distributed technology on the delivery of services and on people’s safety and well-being. The Modern Slavery PEC will use the findings to influence ongoing policy and operational considerations about the role of distributed technology as part of the NRM support package and beyond.

About the call

This call is part of the Modern Slavery PEC Responsive Research mechanism that has been created to fund responsive and agile research projects. It is led directly by the PEC, but is funded and actively supported by the Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC).

The scope of the research is limited to adults with a positive reasonable grounds decision in receipt of NRM support in Scotland, England and Wales. The impact of technology provision for dependents and trafficked children are out of scope. The project is not expected to include analysis of the impact of the broader move to digital service support provision outside of the NRM e.g. remote GP appointments.

The objectives are to:

  • Assess the benefits and drawbacks of the provision of distributed technology on the experience of accessing and delivering online services delivered through the NRM;
  • Assess the impact of the provision of distributed technology and related online safety training on well-being/recovery and on safeguarding whilst in the NRM and the longer-term impact of such provision or withdrawal;
  • Explore patterns according to the type of technology; characteristics of individuals in support; and type of service received;
  • Consider the situation across the different support provision in the UK (comparing Scotland to England and Wales).

Desirable objectives:

  • Consider lessons learned about the role of distributed technology as part of support provided to survivors of other types of crime (such as domestic abuse) and to explore general principles of how distributed technology can be used to connect vulnerable groups and those at risk of mental health issues to wider social and cultural resources.

In accordance with the Modern Slavery PEC’s strategic objective of facilitating collaboration, successful teams will work in collaboration with the Modern Slavery PEC throughout the project to ensure alignment with our objectives and to maximise impact. This will include developing the research methodology and developing outputs such as the full report and summary briefing, as well as their dissemination.

The Modern Slavery PEC has allocated a maximum budget of £80,000 at 100% full economic cost (FEC) for this project. We expect to fund one project for this work. The project must be led by a UK higher education institution or approved research organisation eligible to receive UKRI funding, and it must be carried out in collaboration with at least one UK based third sector organisation.

You can find the full details and specification of the call in the application pack below.

Application process

The applications to this call must be made through our online form.

All applications will be reviewed by an assessment panel convened by the Modern Slavery PEC that will include external independent reviewers.

The deadline for applications is 4pm (UK time) 11 January 2022.

The decision on the award of the funding will be made by week beginning 31 January, with the project due to start the week beginning 28 February (to be confirmed with successful team), and final outputs to be delivered by August 2022.

Call Webinar & FAQs

A call webinar was held on 12 October 2021, this webinar went through the scope of the original call and answered questions from potential applicants. Please note that some of the information and requirements have changed in the reopened call. If you have further questions, including, but not limited to, the scope of the call, budgets, partnerships or the amendments made to the call, please email office@modernslaverypec.org.

You can download an FAQ document from the link below.

For any additional information, you can contact us by emailing office@modernslaverypec.org. Please allow two working days for a response and note that the Modern Slavery PEC office will be closed for Christmas break from 5pm 17 December 2021 to 4 January 2022.