Poor housing - a gift to human traffickers?
Chief Executive Grainia Long discusses statistics published last week on human trafficking, and how the housing sector can help to tackle the problem.A well timed story in the past seven days offered a reminder of why housing has the capacity to reduce social ills. It relates to a report published by the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group in England on human trafficking, which found that 946 potential victims of human trafficking were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) last year. Of these, 712 were adults and 234 were children - that's nine classrooms of children. Many housing and other professionals working on the front line of service provision suspect that this is a conservative figure - the reality is much greater.
No one would suggest that housing professionals be directly responsible for eradicating human trafficking - they are neither equipped to deal with this form of criminal behaviour nor is the problem so easily tackled. However, the work done by many CIH members to inspect properties in the private sector, to enhance physical standards often makes them 'eyes and ears' for significant human suffering. Their work is crucial - as is our support for them. Rest assured your membership fees support much of the work we do to provide practice guidance and other professional support for those working on the front line.
And there is more we can and will do. A concerted effort is required across the housing industry to make it even more difficult for traffickers to exploit people in overcrowded conditions. Sub standard housing is appalling whatever the location or its purpose - it is all the more shameful when those properties are specifically used to hide trafficking, criminal behaviour and child exploitation. And yes, it's happening on our watch.
As the professional body for all housing, the CIH takes its role as the home of professional standards seriously. CIH will be writing to the various public agencies responsible for preventing and responding to human trafficking. We will bring together a range of housing and related organisations to better explore the role we can play - so that next year's NRM statistics are less shameful.