Under the UK law, survivors of modern slavery are entitled to assistance with 'psychological recovery.'
However, there is a lack of current evidence on how this commitment is implemented in practice. In 2013, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group reported that survivors were not receiving their entitlement. Eight years later, evidence is required to establish if that gap remains and the impact of any remaining gap on the psychological recovery of survivors.
The research team from University of Birmingham, in collaboration with University of Nottingham, Anti-Slavery International, West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network and the Survivor Alliance, are exploring wellbeing as an element of recovery, as well as innovative methods for incorporating survivor voice into research.
The current literature on survivors of slavery does not provide data on wellbeing; rather it provides data on mental illness and defines mental health as the absence of illness. This project will, instead, operate from a definition that includes the presence of wellbeing.
This project focuses on mental wellbeing as an element of recovery, a term often used interchangeably with the term mental health. It will use the World Health Organization’s definition of mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".
The research will include a literature review, online surveys with survivors and NGO service providers, and three workshops with survivors and front-line service providers.
The key element of the project is the inclusion of people with lived experience of modern slavery in research, implementing a principle that in order to be effective, the work to support and promote survivors' wellbeing needs to be survivor-led and survivor informed. Its aim is to create a process for engaging and collaborating with survivors of modern slavery as peer-researchers in order to increase survivor voice, presence, and capacity in the interactive production of knowledge for evidence-based anti-slavery wellbeing interventions.
The survivors will act as peer-researchers, who will be involved with research design, data collection, and analysis. The project will also assess whether the process of being a peer-researcher impacts on the wellbeing of those who are undertaking the role.
The project will produce a qualitative evaluation of peer researchers' mental wellbeing, as well as a peer researcher training curriculum guide and a manual for researchers on supporting people with lived experience who embark on the role of peer researcher.
By bringing together survivor experience and academic scholarship throughout the project's knowledge production process, it also aims to develop peer researchers to become a legacy of the project, equipped to consult, engage with, and lead future research analysing survivor needs.
This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Modern Slavery PEC call for research on Victim and Survivor Recovery.
Project team: Prof Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Sian Thomas, University of Birmingham, and Dr Minh Dang, Vicky Brotherton, Dr Nicola Wright, University of Nottingham.