‘Living with the Consequences of Slavery’ PhD Cluster

Dr Lorena Arocha

Lecturer in Contemporary Slavery, Wilberforce Institute

lorena.arocha@hull.ac.uk

This month we are delighted to welcome three new PhD students to the Wilberforce Institute. They are all part of the ‘Living with the Consequences of Slavery’ PhD Cluster, a strategic investment for the Wilberforce Institute and the University of Hull in this field.

The position we have taken with this PhD Cluster is that it is not evil people that create victims but systems. Criminal justice studies have historically been more concerned with the punishment of the offender, but our new students’ research sits with recent moves to re-centre attention critically on the relational shared experiences of victims/survivors and non-victims. Each of these individual projects therefore explores key questions that go beyond the individual person affected by these practices, examining instead the effects of systematic and rooted processes of exploitation, its relation with processes of victimhood and their intersection with questions of social justice and social rights.

The ‘Living with the Consequences of Slavery’ PhD Cluster examines contemporary forms of slavery from three different angles of critical victimology. The first project is led by Jennifer Nghishitende, who will be looking at what happens after people have experienced exploitation, how people make sense of these experiences and how they then move on with their lives, especially in the longer-term, with an emphasis on questions of dignity and rights.

Jennifer Nghishitende 

‘Living with the Consequences of Slavery’ PhD Research Cluster

n.j.nghishitende-2020@hull.ac.uk

The second project is led by Isabel Arce Zelada, whose investigation centres on testimonies, in asylum courts and beyond, and the extent to which these deliver justice.

Isabel Arce Zelada

‘Living with the Consequences of Slavery’ PhD Research Cluster

i.d.arce-zelada-2020@hull.ac.uk

The third project, led by Mavuto Kambochola Banda, focuses on tea plantations in Malawi. Mavuto will examine the unintended consequences of policy measures which are put in place to tackle contemporary forms of slavery.  Such interventions can adversely affect the lives of those they intend to assist.

Mavuto Kambochola Banda

‘Living with the Consequences of Slavery’ PhD Research Cluster

m.k.banda-2020@hull.ac.uk

The ‘Living with the consequences of slavery’ Cluster will therefore look at these problematics from opposite directions: on the one hand, from the perspective of those who have experienced exploitation and its relation with victimisation processes in contemporary forms of slavery; and, on the other, from the perspective of those who have been disadvantaged as a result of humanitarian anti-slavery measures. This, we believe, offers an exceptional opportunity to gain a more comprehensive picture of the complexity of practices and processes that drive exploitation experiences as well as an in-depth understanding of the impact of these experiences in the long term.

The theme of critical victimology, which marks a new direction for the Wilberforce Institute, is composed of two strands. Alongside our investment in the PhD scholarships we are introducing an MA programme in Contemporary Slavery Studies and Critical Victimology, due to start in February 2021.  The MA offers our new PhD students a platform and a community with whom to share their research. We are hoping they will inspire others to engage in this critical area of study.

We have high expectations for our new PhD students, and are looking forward to guiding and supporting them through their studies. They will be based at the Wilberforce Institute when they are not away on research, working with a team of supervisors across various disciplines, in Human Geography, Social Sciences, Criminology and Law.  We are excited by the prospect of seeing their research projects develop as they grow as scholars.

Oriel Chambers, High Street, Hull – the home of the Wilberforce Institute.

Modern Slavery Partnership Workshops

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

alicia.kidd@hull.ac.uk

I am currently leading on a project funded by the Modern Slavery Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre. This project sees the development of a resource pack of innovative training workshops which aim to improve practitioner responses and engagement around various aspects of modern slavery. This resource will be shared with all regional Modern Slavery Partnerships across England and Wales in order to provide them with the tools they need to be able to deliver engaging training sessions to their partners at a pace, and in an order, that suits the needs of their region.

To ensure that each workshop is of maximum relevance to its audience, I am supported on this project by partners from the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership, the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and Fresca Group (a supplier of fruit and vegetables to the UK). These partners are using their expertise to provide real life insight into the experiences of victims of different forms of modern slavery in the UK, and also to offer advice on best practice for prevention, response and victim support both for frontline practitioners and for businesses.

In order to develop effective and engaging workshops, each one is written as a standalone exercise and is targeted at a different audience. There are workshops specifically for businesses, recruitment agencies, non-governmental organisations and frontline practitioners such as police, healthcare providers and local authorities. Each workshop is developed with its specific audience in mind and is supported and contextualised by legislation and policies relevant to the target audience which have been developed into accessible handouts. These handouts offer attendees straightforward summaries of complex information outlining key statutory responsibilities, points to consider and ways in which the provisions of policies can be implemented in different situations.

Instead of offering training in the ‘regular’ sense, of one expert running through definitions and statistics of modern slavery, signs to spot and possible ways to respond, these workshops place the attendees as the experts of their respective organisations. There is no single ‘leader’ of the training, but instead, attendees are divided into groups with peers that they would not normally work with in order to maximise the potential to learn about the capacities and capabilities of other organisations local to their own. Each group is supported by a facilitator with knowledge of modern slavery. From running pilot versions of these workshops, we have discovered that open conversation training like this allows for attendees to share experiences, insights and knowledge which they rarely have the chance to divulge in typical teacher-student training.

Each workshop is based on a different scenario of modern slavery, whereby attendees receive small sections of information as the session progresses. Each piece of the scenario builds upon the previous piece and, as in a real life situation, the attendees must use only the information they have in order to identify what the situation could be indicative of, whether a response is required and when, who would be responsible for leading a response and what the most effective ways of dealing with the situation would be. After each section of the scenario has been discussed, the groups are brought back together to share and debate ideas. Here, the facilitators are also able to offer the advised actions that the project team has devised in response to each section of the scenarios.

The scenarios have all been developed based on the experiences of victims of modern slavery in the UK and they include situations of criminal, labour and sexual exploitation as well as domestic servitude. The scenarios include adults, children, males, females, British nationals as well as EU and non-EU nationals in order for attendees to recognise and respond to the different rights and entitlements available for different cohorts of the population.

This project equips Modern Slavery Partnerships with the tools required to be able to run successful and impactful partnership learning exercises for a range of organisations, depending on the needs in their region. The workshops are innovative training tools, enabling partners to identify best practice, share knowledge and experience, improve prevention and victim care, and identify gaps in knowledge or provision. The Modern Slavery Partnerships will then be able to use the findings from the workshops to set actions in order to plug any identified gaps before they are experienced in reality.

If you’d like more information, please contact Alicia via email.

The Impact of Covid-19 on Child Carers in the UK

Saphia Fleury

‘Falling Through the Net’ PhD Research Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

s.fleury-2019@hull.ac.uk, #FallingThroughTheNet

There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK. These children already face huge responsibilities within their families and are at a higher risk of mental ill-health and lower educational attainment than their peers. Due to the nature of caring, it is likely that many of these children will be looking after a relative who is vulnerable to Covid-19. The lockdown and resulting economic downturn have put these children and their families at increased risk of vulnerability, including exploitation and abuse, and make it more difficult for them to realise their human rights.

Mental health impact
Research on mental health in the general population found that anxiety and depression spiked following the lockdown announcement in late March. Child carers are already at heightened risk of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, so may be considered extremely vulnerable to worsening mental health at this time.

Research on carers’ experiences, conducted in the early stages of the UK lockdown, found high levels of anxiety amongst carers. The mental pressure of isolation, not being able to see friends or go outside for a “breather”, plus the stress of supporting a family’s everyday needs in difficult circumstances, will inevitably increase during the lockdown period. This may be compounded if household income is reduced during or following the lockdown due to underemployment or austerity measures.

Food and other essential goods
In theory, supermarket delivery slots have been reserved for the most vulnerable. However, The Guardian newspaper found that “large numbers of disabled and older people are being excluded from the scheme due to the highly selective criteria”; these criteria may impact on child carers.  Penalties for shopping for fewer items, plus delivery charges, increase the overall cost of shopping online. Equally, delivery services rely on access to the internet, email and a credit or debit card, which young carers may not have. Poorer families are less likely to have been able to “stockpile” essentials at the start of the outbreak and may have subsequently struggled to buy basic goods. These issues are compounded for child carers, who are already more likely to experience poverty than other children.

Families on low incomes are disadvantaged by the rising cost of some items and the need to shop frequently for smaller amounts of goods. Children may be afraid to leave the house to shop in case they contract the virus and become ill themselves, or pass it to vulnerable members of their household.

While some carers noted that they were receiving practical and emotional support from their local community, this is ad hoc and cannot be counted on as a long-term solution. Due to stigma, fear, or lack of social networks, child carers may be less likely or able to seek practical support within the community.

Accessing healthcare
Despite government assurances that the NHS is still open for business, fear of contracting Covid-19 appears to be keeping people away from hospitals. Child carers face a difficult decision if they see a decline in the health of a relative, which may be compounded by long NHS 111 waiting times and the unavailability of face-to-face GP services. This responsibility is likely to put enormous strain on the mental health of the child carer, as well as putting the health and wellbeing of their family members at risk.

Education
Child carers’ education already suffers because of their caring responsibilities. Child carers miss an average of 48 days of school and may struggle to find time to concentrate on homework. In the absence of a parent or teacher to guide them, these children may see a further decline in their ability to learn. This will be compounded by additional stresses and highly time-consuming activities such as shopping for essentials (see above), brought on by the circumstances of the lockdown. In this way, child carers face a double-hit in terms of access to education.

Vulnerabilities
Child carers tend to be highly competent, organised and capable, often as a result of the skills they have acquired from their caring responsibilities. But they may also have mental or physical disabilities, be refugees or members of minority groups, experience child poverty or be the victims of exploitation or abuse.

Indeed, some of these characteristics may be exacerbated by the lockdown itself. Children who are driven further into poverty, mental ill-health and isolation by the lockdown situation may become more vulnerable to situations of exploitation and abuse. In the worst cases, these situations can manifest as sexual and economic exploitation, including forced criminality, which have serious long-term effects on the health and wellbeing of the child.

It is important to contemplate these intersecting sources of vulnerability when considering the impact of Covid-19 on child carers. Being forced by the lockdown to stay away from school, friends and the community at large may mean that children who are at risk may not be seen and offered support. Above all, despite their capabilities, they must still be considered as children, with all the rights and protections due to those under the age of 18.