Gheirey Mulliken, Floating Support Worker for The Amari Project at Solace writes about trafficking, the barriers women are facing and how Solace’s specialist partnership is supporting women to move forward after abuse.
As today marks World Day against Trafficking in Persons, it is important to give light to the trafficking and modern slavery that continue to occur globally, regionally, and locally. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR, 2014) defines ‘trafficking’ as ‘the process of coercion, the use of violence, manipulation and exploitation for financial or personal gain’. This definition recognises that women, men and children can be trafficked, it does not always involve crossing international borders and extends the definition to include the perpetuation of the trafficked person’s exploitation. Much of the discourse focuses on sexual exploitation however, it is imperative to understand the nuances and complexities of ‘Trafficking’ and ‘Modern slavery’. People can also be trafficked and exploited for forced labour, domestic servitude, marriage or organ removal.
Equally, it is important to shine a light on services that aim to reduce barriers through centring holistic support and recovery. The Amari Project is a specialist service at Solace, and it supports women who have been exploited through trafficking, prostitution and modern slavery. It is a pilot project conducted in collaboration between Commonweal Housing and Solace Women’s Aid with funding from London Councils. The Amari Project is a Pan-London, 2nd stage accommodation service that puts support systems in place to ensure the women continue their recovery process in a safe environment. The benefits women gain whilst working alongside a floating support worker is a vital service for vulnerable women.
The service users in the project stay between 12-18 months, and the project has been devised to support the complexity of the women’s needs. The Amari Project is inclusive and non-discriminatory in line with Solace’s values. Presently, the service users in the project are all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) highlighting the difficulties that BIPOC have in navigating through the growing hostility of the welfare and immigration system. These systems are woven between issues of race, class, gender, disability, language which affect the disparities of people accessing these necessary services. Therefore, the project provides women with stability and to address any conditions of mental and physical health, financial stability, immigration and isolation.
The main aims of the project are to help women gain independent living skills, pursue their personal goals and to sustain a lease. This is to equip the tenants with the knowledge of navigating around setting up/paying bills, universal credit, housing benefit, to advocate for themselves and maintain a long-term tenancy when they exit the project through the provision of specialist support. So far, the 23 women have been supported by the project, 11 of which have also been supported on issues with immigration.
There is a criterion for women to be able to access support with Amari, these are:
- Recourse to public funds
- Been a victim of trafficking, sexual exploitation or exited prostitution
- Engaging with professionals for substance misuse, therapeutic group work, counselling and must be working towards recovery (at least 3 months)
- Open to employment, education or volunteering
- Able/willing to compromise and engage with the floating support worker for resettlement into long-term housing
- Have maintained a tenancy successfully in 1st stage accommodation
A key aspect of The Amari Project is that it aims to maintain an equilibrium between practical and emotional support whilst also giving women the space to be independent. Some of the ways to facilitate independence is to ensure that women are engaging with services outside of the project. In the service, women are encouraged to make local connections and participate in activities. Many women take the opportunity to improve their language skills with ESOL classes, to volunteer, take creative classes, employment or access further education. Amari gives the flexibility to work with the women at a pace they are comfortable with as each woman has their own individual goals when entering the project.
Amidst the austerity and pandemic, the support workers for the project still continue to deliver services through the provision of revised Covid-19 risk assessments and support plans. One of the main challenges has been a risk of the women feeling isolated and the sudden closure of services (volunteering and education). Although, alterations to the work delivered have been reformed to ensure the women continue to feel supported during these unprecedented times. The revision of key-work sessions has been done remotely with check-ins weekly and support being delivered over the phone. As well as ensuring that the tenants adhere to government guidelines and to be cautious of fraudulent emails/calls.
Despite substantial progress, there are persistent barriers to the government’s response to trafficking and modern slavery. Particularly areas of victim identification (NRM), security and care, access to justice and recovery. Furthermore, cuts at a local level, changes to welfare and benefit support, housing all continue to push vulnerable people in the margins. Therefore, a service like The Amari Project aims to be flexible to meet the specific needs of vulnerable clients and is preventative because it minimises relapses and loss of tenancy. Ultimately, the Amari project highlights the service user’s resilience, boosted self-esteem and confidence with a prioritisation on moving forward.
Find out more or get in touch
The Amari Project at Solace [email protected]
Anti-Slavery International (2020) - https://www.antislavery.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Submission-HRC-modern-slavery-in-UK-Jan20.pdf
United Nations and Human Rights (2014) - https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FS36_en.pdf