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Blogs and Opinion IMSA Model Development Project: Foreword by Dame Sara Thornton

IMSA Model Development Project: Foreword by Dame Sara Thornton

National Framework for Independent Modern Slavery Advocates: Foreword

As the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner I welcomed the partnership between British Red Cross, Hope for Justice, The Snowdrop Project, and survivor leaders to develop a framework for the accreditation of Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs) in the UK in June 2021. It is great to see that this work has progressed and that the framework will now be piloted.

IMSAs seek to empower survivors to make informed choices about their options and recovery, working with the survivor and their existing support mechanisms to open doors and create opportunities. By providing advocacy that looks at someone’s social needs and legal rights together, IMSAs provide support that is holistic and tailored to the individual, and helps them overcome barriers and navigate complex systems.

As commissioner, I was particularly concerned about the many barriers which survivors faced to becoming sustainably independent – accessing education, training and employment, which are vital for recovery, as well as basic needs such as accommodation.

They frequently have to navigate extremely complex systems in order to access entitlements such as legal advice and welfare benefits that can be so important for recovery. Advocates who bring specialist knowledge about modern slavery services available to survivors and understand how these systems operate, as well as the impact of the significant trauma that so many have endured, can, therefore, play a vital role in empowering survivors to access these services and systems and in reducing the risk of re-trafficking.

This project ticks many boxes. The framework builds upon the good practice which has been developed by Hope for Justice for several years.

It develops a framework for the accreditation to promote consistent standards in care.

Importantly, it is based on an independent evaluation of Hope for Justice’s IMSA model that was carried out by Alexandra Williams-Woods, a researcher at the University of Liverpool. The report, published in June 2021, found that the IMSA Model at Hope for Justice provided a tested Model for responding to the significant needs and structural disadvantages that survivors of modern slavery encounter, and led to considerably improved outcomes for survivors.

The report recommended that organisations which provide advocacy services for modern slavery survivors should work together to build an accredited IMSA role and framework in line with other independent advocacy services, such as Independent Domestic Violence Advocates.

This framework is the product of both the wisdom of the evaluation and two years of hard work which is now ready to be tested across the country.

Dame Sara Thornton, Summer 2023