Pilot project to support victims of modern slavery in Somerset wins funding

Hidden Voices Somerset Victim Support Project for Victims of Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking and Exploitation has been awarded more than fourteen thousand pounds by the Serious and Organised Crime Community, a partnership of Avon and Somerset Constabulary with Sedgemoor District Council to fund a pilot scheme to support victims in Somerset.

Hidden Voices is a church and community resource developed by the Church of England to help groups learn about modern slavery and how they can take action against it. Bath and Wells was one of the first Diocese to sign up to the initiative and through has worked closely with local groups to develop Hidden Voices Somerset (HVS).

Hidden Voices Groups are now in the Sedgemoor, Minehead and Chard areas. The initiative started in the churches, but new groups across Somerset will draw a mix of church and community people.

Official figures show 62 victims in the Diocesan area applied to enter the support system called the National Referral Mechanism (the NRM) in the year to March 2020. However National figures show that probably 90-95% of victims do not wish to enter the NRM when offered the opportunity to do so, making a figure of 850-900 current potential victims in the Diocese.

Hidden Voices Somerset has developed relationships with voluntary and statutory organisations, and after consultation with these bodies, wants to begin setting up a pilot to explore the possibility of local support for victims or people at risk of being so, primarily within Somerset and North Somerset. The project work will be carried out in partnership with The Clewer Initiative (the national Church of England’s anti-slavery programme) and national Victim Support.

The pilot scheme which aims to provide six services for victims: General support, support to understand the NRM and other options including legal advice, and advocacy, a system of emergency support and accommodation for any victim or potential victim, employment readiness and skills development for victims, as well as exploring new support solutions and building an anti-slavery network in Somerset.

It’s hoped that a team of volunteers will be recruited to help work in the pilot scheme. If it is successful, the scheme may be replicated nationally.

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