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Currently, even when the  National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive appropriate care, does identify someone as a survivor of Modern Slavery, the support that they have access to is poor, with charities and religious congregations leading much of the essential response by providing housing, food, clothing and personal support.[1]

For survivors wishing to establish independent lives, which previous research has identified as being the goal of the majority, being able to speak English is essential. Whilst some support organisations offer English classes to survivors, others do not. Most survivors are not eligible for free mainstream provision, which is restricted to those in receipt of certain benefits, aged over 19 and in possession of certain documentation.[2] Due to their circumstances, it is unlikely that survivors meet the first two criteria.

Expert support organisations, such as the Medaille Trust and Hestia, and campaigning organisations such as the Human Trafficking Foundation and Anti-Slavery International have identified language learning as part of the support that survivors need if they are to reestablish safe lives for themselves, and sometimes for their families, in the UK. Without speaking English they cannot have agency in their daily lives, they cannot work,  go to the doctor, speak to their children’s teachers. It is an essential step in being able to integrate into the UK and be able to live independently.

Currently many of these survivors are unable to access mainstream classes as they cannot afford to pay for them and are not working, which means that they not eligible for free courses. Additionally, the personal toll of their situations means that formal classes are overwhelming and regular attendance may be a challenge. Medaille currently works with partner organisations to deliver English courses and Northern College in Barnsley is a lead organisation in provision. Conversations with these expert providers suggests that survivors’ situations and experiences need to be taken into consideration in the nature of provision that is offered.


  • Ask them to ensure that people who are recognised as having been trafficked, and who do not speak English, are able to learn the language.
  • Ask them to ensure that classes take place in environments and with methodology that is empowering, rather than stressful or pressurising. 
  • Ask them to ensure that classes are free - even to those who are not currently seeking work. 

[1] Murphy C (2018), ‘A Game of Chance: Long Term Support for Survivors of Modern Slavery’, Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, St Mary’s University Online:

[2] Refugee Action (2017) ‘Locked Out of Learning: A Snapshot of ESOL Provision in England’ online:

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