2018 GSK IMPACT Awards: Unseen

This content relates to the following topics:

Part of GSK IMPACT Awards

Article information

  • Posted:Thursday 17 May 2018

Unseen supports survivors, who often have multiple complex health needs, to recover safely and develop resilient, independent lives by offering a range of services including sexual health and counselling services, and therapeutic activities. It also runs the national Modern Slavery Helpline, has separate safe-housing for men, women and children, and trains frontline professionals in identifying and supporting victims.

Unseen is able to reach a significant number of people affected by trafficking and modern slavery, and the fact that it is expanding its services shows it is ambitious in continuing to develop and improve the support it offers to people who need it.

GSK IMPACT Awards judging panel

Video transcript

I came into serious debt, I couldn’t pay the bills, couldn’t sleep, it got really hard. This friend of mine offered me to come and work with him in the UK for six months but I told him I didn’t want to leave my son who was fourteen at the time. He said, “No problem, bring your son. I’ll pay for your flight.” It felt so good to find a solution and I came over here with high hopes. I didn't realise until we landed that my ticket was one way.

Unseen works with victims of trafficking and modern slavery that have been identified within the United Kingdom - so men, women and children. We started because we had come across trafficking in a Ukrainian orphanage, a colleague of mine started asking questions around what happens to these kids when they have to leave the orphanage, she found out actually at turf-out day the traffickers turn up, the kids get into the back of a car and are never seen again. We then realised it was an issue in the United Kingdom as well.

When we got there there were these other guys I didn’t know, that’s when they gold me, “You’re going to be working with us now and if you don’t do what we say we’re going to hurt your son.” 

Around 40 million people are held in situations of modern slavery, within that figure about 20 million people are reckoned to be in situations of forced labour, 17 million in forced marriage and then the rest in sexual exploitation, so it’s a huge global problem. 

After the first year I got my son back. I worked for another three years after that. By then I was barely surviving. One day I felt my back just snap, I fell to the floor and I couldn’t move.

The National Crime Agency in 2017 have seen approximately 5,000 people go into the national referral mechanism, they come from 108 different nationalities. Forced labour that’s found in the world’s supply chains contributes $150 billion profit per annum into the illicit trade that we call modern slavery.  

The guy in charge came in a van with my son, he took us to this residential area, dumped us in the street and left us there. I remember walking to the hospital and collapsing. 

Unseen have specialist safe houses that really understand the issue that can provide brilliant support.

We have people arrive with us from all sorts of different situations, we’re able to give them a short period of safe accommodation and support for the practical things, accessing health care, we try and help people into work, into education and accessing a specialist trauma counselling to process the horrible things that have happened to them. 

We’ve worked closely with them supporting survivors particularly around psychological care and sexual health care as well as any physical injuries that they might have sustained during their captivity.

Unseen have started the first specialist accommodation and support service to support kids to respond to the fact that even when those kids are found 60% to 80% of them go missing within the first 72 hours and we want to address that problem.

Unseen have a big role in working with the Antislavery Partnership to disrupt modern slavery activity.

The Antislavery Partnership is a multi-stakeholder group that brings together members to have a coordinated response to the problem of modern slavery.

Unseen started the modern slavery helpline to act as a hub for the United Kingdom. In 2017 we saw over 3,000 calls, we identified 4,500 potential victims across the United Kingdom, over 1,000 cases of modern slavery have been raised. Unseen’s training is the only CPD accredited training around modern slavery. We have trained over 1,200 individuals last year across 80 different agencies. 

If through the course of staying with us they are then able to get back to the freedom that was deprived of them; when it works it’s wonderful.

I found my angels here. There’s hope when there’s a place like Unseen for the broken. There’s hope.