20 May 2021
Enabling access to online services through mobile technology is an essential need for survivors of modern slavery, a new report jointly published by Unseen and NIHR ARC West has highlighted. Mobile technology should be considered a feasible and necessary element of survivor support packages, both during and outside of a pandemic. Further research should explore whether government support is viable and optimising the support package for survivors and staff who support them.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, BT donated smartphones, SIM cards and data bundles to up to 100 survivors of modern slavery who received support from Unseen. Survivors of modern slavery (defined by the Modern Slavery Act 2015) may have experienced forced work through mental or physical threat or abuse, been dehumanised and treated as a commodity, or physically constrained, including being trafficked for sexual exploitation or forced labour.
This project examined the impact access to mobile technology has had on this group, in terms of their mental health, well-being and social connections, their ability to access services and their levels of independence and isolation.
The main findings from the research were that access to technology to get online is extremely beneficial to survivors’ wellbeing. During the pandemic such access was essential in providing a mechanism by which survivors could support themselves at a time when face-to-face access to support was severely limited. Access to smartphones and data packages are crucial for support and integration, regardless of a pandemic situation.
Smartphones and data packages assisted survivors to:
Access to technology should not be seen as a standalone solution but should be offered as part of a holistic, needs-based support package for survivors, with support staff playing a key role in its delivery.
Findings were based on interviews with 27 survivors of modern slavery, survivor well-being questionnaires and survey responses from 12 Unseen staff who support survivors. Report recommendations include:
Download ‘Impact of mobile technology for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking: A mixed method study’ (PDF) from the Unseen website.
Find out more about this project in this video:
This work is supported by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, University of Bristol, the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund and the Rosetrees Trust.