Thousands of children whose parents are victims of modern slavery are not receiving the support they need while many others will simply be lost in the system, the charity Hestia warns.
The charity, which supports over 2,200 adult victims of modern slavery and 1,200 dependent children each year, says that children who were with their parents while they were exploited, or born as a result of exploitation, are not being recognised and often experience profound trauma.
Patrick Ryan, Chief Executive at Hestia, said: “Rebuilding a life after the trauma of modern slavery is a long and difficult journey. The risk of intergenerational transmission of this trauma is great. What is clear from our research is that we are failing survivors and their children. They are being overlooked, misunderstood, and forgotten. Too often, the support put in place to help families does not understand their needs, making their recovery journeys harder and longer. The powerful and sustaining hope we hear from mothers who have survived modern slavery is that they want a better life for their children. We must not let them down. All women and their children impacted by modern slavery need and deserve protection, understanding and support. Only then can they begin to rebuild their lives.”
Over the last 10 years, modern slavery in the UK has risen and it is estimated that there are as many as 100,000 victims. Women make up about a third of all victims of modern slavery in the UK, with many commonly forced into sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.
The ’Forgotten Children’ report states that there are at least 5,000 children of modern slavery victims in the UK and the majority are not getting the support they need, with many more potentially lost in the system, with the potential number being much higher.
The report examines the experiences of mothers and children supported by the charity found that a mother’s trauma can have a deep and long-lasting impact on a child’s life, even leading to developmental delays and poor mental health.
Hestia is urging the government to amend the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and enable children of modern slavery victims to be recognised as victims in their own right alongside introducing a new system of Children and Family Advocates to focus on the needs of the child.
Furthermore, the charity is calling for social workers, health professionals and teachers to receive training to improve their understanding of how modern slavery can impact a mother and child.
Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said: “Hestia’s important report considers the experiences of mothers who are victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, and also examines the experiences of their children. It clearly highlights that even in cases where a child has not been directly exploited themselves, the impact of a mother’s experience on their development and mental health can be significant. This cohort of children is also extremely vulnerable to further harm and I support the calls made by this research to ensure that professionals working with individuals and their families understand these risks. It is vital that the children of modern slavery victims and survivors can access the support that is required to meet their needs through each stage of childhood, and I welcome Hestia’s focus on this issue.”