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Concerns about handover of care for sex-trafficking victims


Laura Bridgestock
WVoN co-editor

On Monday, April 11, The Guardian reported on the UK government’s decision to transfer funding for victims of sex trafficking from the charity Eaves Housing to The Salvation Army.

Eaves has said the decision to transfer the £6m contract would lead to the provision of ‘a bare minimum service, not a specialist service’, reducing funding by 60 per cent per victim.

The Poppy Project, which Eaves started in 2003, provides accommodation and support for victims of sex trafficking around the UK, including access to counselling, healthcare, education, legal advice and help contacting family and friends.

The funding received by Poppy from the Office for Criminal Justice Reform will now go to Christian charity The Salvation Army.

Eaves has expressed concerns about the handover, calling for standards to be put in place to ensure trafficking victims continue to receive equal access and appropriate standards of care according to the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

In particular, Eaves has raised issues surrounding the Christian charity’s provision of care to women who may want abortions, who are gay, who may have supported themselves via prostitution either before or after being trafficked, who have no or other religious beliefs or who ask to be referred to a non-evangelical provider.

Eaves has also questioned The Salvation Army’s previous experience in providing specialist assistance, such as overturning legal decisions that wrongly fail to recognise someone as trafficked.

Eaves is calling for people to make donations so it can continue to offer at least some of its Poppy services, and to help raise concerns by writing to MPs and The Salvation Army.

A spokesperson for Eaves said the decision showed the government’s determination to prioritise its ‘ideology of faith groups delivering public services in the  “big society”’ over meeting quality standards in victim care – particularly for black and ethnic minority women.

Having had the opportunity to meet some of those supported by Poppy a few years ago, as part of a business entrepreneurship and mentoring scheme, I really hope this decision won’t mark a step backwards in the support available for some of the most resilient and inspiring women I’ve encountered.

  1. This is a worrying move, the Slvation army is a worthy movement, but with a particular perspective on life that may not provide the right balance and open mindeness required. I hope that Eaves continue to campaign to retain the funding.

  2. I am appalled that the Poppy Project has lost this contract. They provided specialist expert support to very vulnerable female victims of trafficking. How can the government justify giving this contract to an organisation that may have a good record in other areas of social care, but not in the area of helping trafficked women? How will the SA set aside its religious principles and help gay women, women who want abortions etc? I believe this decision contravenes the Equality Act as it may discriminate against people with Protected Characteristics, e.g. on grounds of sexuality and gender (women who have been subjected to sexual violence need the support of non judgemental, pro-women women only services). If the Poppy Project has a petition or campaign against the loss of their funding, please publicise it.

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