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Impact of providing technology to survivors of modern slavery in the UK

Project evaluating the impact of providing digital technologies to survivors of modern slavery in the UK

During the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations supporting survivors of modern slavery were forced to move to providing support remotely, including by phone and online.

However, the provision of technology - such as phones, laptops or data packages - to individuals in receipt of National Referral Mechanism (NRM) support (i.e., via the national framework that is used in the UK to identify and support potential victims of modern slavery) is not part of the current 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.

This shift to the delivery of social, legal and health services to a “digital-by-default” model can therefore intensify inequalities and limit access to services. Prior research on digital inequalities has established that ‘limited’ access and skills can also have a comparable impact on exclusion of citizens who aren’t survivors but are affected by many similar socio-economic and demographic factors.

A research project, led by the University of Liverpool, in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration UK and Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) seeks to evaluate the impact of providing technology to adults with lived experience of modern slavery in the UK.

The research team will carry out a literature review, looking at how survivors of modern slavery use digital technologies to access and request the support they need, as well as comparing it to survivors of other types of crimes. Researchers will also speak to key groups in both technology and modern slavery areas, including academics, policy experts and people with lived experience of modern slavery.

Data will be collected using a Delphi method, where a set of questions will be asked to individuals with expert experience three times, each time taking on feedback and analysing answers, so as to come to a broad consensus on the impact of digital exclusion among survivors, on the implications of online delivery of the NRM support, and on the role of digital access in relation to survivors’ wellbeing.

Researchers: Prof Simeon Yates, Gianfranco Polizzi, Rebecca Harris, Jeanette D'Arcy (University of Liverpool), Catherine Cullen (International Organisation for Migration UK), Bronagh Andrew (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance).