Suspected victims of modern slavery will be able to stay in safe houses for three months during the coronavirus outbreak, the Home Office said.
People referred through the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) will continue to be able to access support and Government-funded accommodation.
They would usually be assisted to find new accommodation after 45 days, but will be able to remain for three months to protect them from Covid-19.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said: “The safety of modern slavery victims and the frontline staff supporting them remains a top priority.
“By taking this decisive action we will ensure that vulnerable people continue to have access to safe accommodation.
“The advice is clear that we all need to stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS.”
The number of suspected modern slavery victims in the UK hit a record high last year, with more than 10,000 potential victims of trafficking, slavery and forced labour identified.
The NRM is continuing to take referrals and support workers will keep delivering services remotely where possible, the Home Office said.
Director of Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery for the Salvation Army, Kathy Betteridge, said: “The Salvation Army is working closely with our partners and the Home Office to quickly adapt our existing operations so that victims of modern slavery continue to have the best care possible, to keep them safe and help them continue their recovery despite the challenges we face in the light of coronavirus.
“We are already making available new safe houses on a regular basis.
“We have plans to ensure we continue to have the capacity to accommodate new victims needing support, which will contribute to the additional capacity now required following the Government’s decision to restrict clients moving on from our network of safe houses.”
Picture: Archive photo, dated 8th March 2015, shows domestic workers dressed as suffragettes protesting outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on International Women’s Day, calling for an amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill, which will allow domestic workers to change employers once in the UK. (Dominic Lipinski/PA).