Matthew Elliott: Please apply to invest in Britain’s future and win £10,000

19 Oct

Matthew Elliott was Editor-at-Large of BrexitCentral

Coming from the world of think-tanks and campaign groups, I have a strong interest in the policy ecosystem that surrounds political parties.

Ahead of Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, think-tanks such as Demos and the Institute for Public Policy Research were established. And in the 2000s,a plethora of think-tanks (Centre for Social Justice/Policy Exchange), campaign groups (Business for Sterling/Countryside Alliance) and websites (ConservativeHome/Guido Fawkes) were launched and play an influential role in political discourse.

As well as playing a role in two successful referendum campaigns (NOtoAV and Vote Leave), I helped set up the TaxPayers’ Alliance (2004), Big Brother Watch (2009), Million Jobs (2012), Business for Britain (2013) and BrexitCentral (2016), so policy entrepreneurship is one of my passions. And even though my focus is now more in the private sector, I still enjoy helping and mentoring new policy entrepreneurs who are setting up the next generation of campaign groups and think-tanks.

At the beginning of my career, I was helped by the entrepreneur and philanthropist Stuart Wheeler, who sadly passed away at the end of July. I was 25 when we launched the TaxPayers’Alliance. I didn’t know any potential financial supporters, so I wrote to the signatories of a Business for Sterling advertisement with my ‘Strategy Plan’.

I thought, if they like BfS, there’s a good chance they’ll like the TPA. Stuart was one of the people who very generously sent a contribution which, along with some other donations, gave us the resources to cover my salary for three months, giving me the confidence to leave my position as a researcher to the Conservative MEP (now Lord) Timothy Kirkhope, and go full-time with the TPA.

Seventeen years later, I now find myself in a different position. My most recent project – the news website BrexitCentral – sent out its 1,085th and final daily email bulletin to the tens of thousands of subscribers we had accrued on February 1, the day after the UK formally left the European Union.

Alongside those essential morning emails put together by the indefatigable Jonathan Isaby and his team, we had published more than 2000 articles by over 500 authors, including the current Prime Minister and many of his Cabinet, not to mention Erin O’Toole, the man who was elected leader of the Canadian Conservative Party over the summer.

We are now in the final stages of winding up the company – a task which has been somewhat delayed by babies and Covid-19 – so, along with Georgiana Bristol, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the show on the road, we are left with the issue of what to do with the last remaining funds.

When we were discussing the matter, I thought about the support that Stuart Wheeler and other donors had given me as we launched the TPA, and we decided that it would be very fitting to use those remaining funds to support the young policy and campaigning entrepreneurs of today – people with the ideas that will tackle the policy challenges of the coming years.

We have two cheques for £10,000, and we would like to hear from people under the age of 35 with an exciting idea or contribution to policy debate. It could be:

  • A campaign group or think-tank you have set up, or are hoping to set up;
  • A book proposal that you want to take a sabbatical from your current job to research and draft;
  • A think-tank report you want to take time off from your current position to write;
  • A website or podcast you want to establish, or a short film you wish to make.

That is not an exhaustive list – we are interested in all ideas, the more innovative and entrepreneurial the better. And because Brexit was supported by people from across the political spectrum, we are open to proposals from all policy positions.

To stress, we are not looking for proposals relating to Brexit or Britain’s future relationship with the European Union – we are looking for submissions on any issue, policy or subject that you feel passionate about.

Entries should be emailed to policyentrepreneurs@brexitcentral.com by midnight on Sunday 8th November 2020 and should cover (on no more than two sides of A4) an outline of your plan an dhow you hope to execute it. All submissions will then be sifted and judged by a panel comprising Jonathan and I, plus Kate Andrews, Peter Cruddas, Helena Morrissey, Jon Moynihan and Mark Wallace. And the two winners will be announced by the end of November.

Since I became active in politics, the barriers to entry for policy entrepreneurship have been massively reduced thanks to the Internet. When I interned at the European Foundation whilst at university, it had an office in Pall Mall, it had copies of its European Journal and European Digest professionally printed, which were then posted to subscribers and the opinion formers in Westminster, Whitehall and Fleet Street that it was trying to influence. It sent press releases out by fax, business was conducted on the telephone or by post, and all these costs were before the general overheads and payroll costs that also needed to be covered.

Fast forward twenty years, and the cost of campaigning has fallen significantly. From setting up a website to using social media, broadcasting ideas and opinions to the world is so much cheaper. But there are still financial barriers, so I hope that this small project will help two policy entrepreneurs of the future, just as Stuart Wheeler helped me with the creation of the TaxPayers’ Alliance all those years ago.

I look forward to reading your entries and announcing the recipients later this year.

This article was originally published on ConservativeHome on Monday October 19, and we are re-publishing it during each weekday this week in order to advertise this project.

Luke Stanley: With rising unemployment, Ministers should look beyond work-related paths out of crime – to families

27 Sep

Luke Stanley is Policy Adviser to Lord Hague of Richmond and Parliamentary Researcher to Anthony Mangnall MP. His views are his own.

Oscar Wilde once said that “every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”. While a noble sentiment, this is not presently the case. Reoffending rates remain stubbornly high, with the same individuals committing offences again and again, trapped in a life of crime.

Robert Buckland recently set out welcome proposals to help address this. While the headline proposals in the Government’s A smarter approach to sentencing White Paper focused on keeping serious offenders behind bars for longer, it also includes a number of reforms on rehabilitation for offenders.

The White Paper proposes measures to reduce the time periods after which some sentences cease to be flagged in criminal record checks, which will help more ex-offenders into work and away from a life of crime. Likewise, the new alcohol abstinence tagging technology will help those with substance abuse issues break patterns of alcohol-induced offending.

The Government is right to combine tougher sentencing with measures to rehabilitate offenders. While serious offenders should be kept off our streets for as long as possible, in the overwhelming majority of cases, they will eventually be released back into our communities. Ensuring these individuals do not commit further offences is therefore integral to our crime strategy.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of successive governments, reoffending rates have remained broadly stable over the last twelve years. The latest figures show that more than one-in-four commit an offence within one year of their release, increasing to almost two-thirds for those jailed for less than one year.

Reoffending costs the UK economy and society more than £18 billion a year. With the latest figures showing around 80 per cent of those convicted or cautioned having already received at least one previous caution or conviction, reducing reoffending rates will have a significant impact on reducing overall crime across our country.

Employment can be a powerful route out of crime. A Government study found that offenders who went on to find employment within a year had reoffending rates of six to nine percentage points lower than those who did not. Accordingly, most of the rehabilitation proposals in the White Paper, along with the policies the Government announced in its Education and Employment Strategy for prisons, relate to getting ex-offenders into work.

However, we are not in normal times. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast in July that the unemployment rate will balloon up to more than 10 per cent next year, and that this figure will remain well above the recent rates of around three per cent through to 2024 at the earliest. With jobs so scarce, the route out of crime through employment will become a more difficult one. So what else can we do to reduce reoffending?

The Government could consider taking more action to support other pillars of rehabilitation, such as relationships. In his recent independent review, Lord Farmer called for family ties to become a “golden thread” running through prisons.

Indeed, research has found that offenders visited in prison by their family were 21 percentage points less likely to reoffend within a year of release than those who were not. While the Government has taken forward a number of recommendations from the Farmer Review, it could go further.

Following a recommendation in the Farmer Review, the Ministry of Justice trialled secure video calls to help prisoners to maintain family ties in situations where visits were not possible. In response to the pandemic, the Government rolled out secure video calls further across the prison estate, but only as a temporary measure. As argued in the recent Justice Select Committee report on the impact of Covid on prisons, the Government could consider making the provision of secure video calls permanent and fully rolling them out across the prison estate.

Releases on Temporary Licence (ROTL) are another way to strengthen family bonds and reduce reoffending. Recent government research found that, in the six months before release, each overnight ROTL was associated with a five per cent reduced odds of reoffending within the next year, suggesting that home leave had a significant impact.

Despite this, only 8,700 offenders were granted ROTL in 2019 at all and, while this marks a welcome fourth year-on-year increase, more could be done to boost this number still further. For example, in a recent paper, the Centre for Social Justice suggested creating a new type of ROTL, built around earned release and community payback, to help strengthen family ties.

If we are to make Oscar Wilde’s witticism a reality and break the cycle of reoffending for good, we must do more to help ex-offenders rebuild their lives. The proposals in the White Paper are an excellent step towards this, but augmenting these measures with further action to strengthen family ties could get reoffending rates falling even further, even faster.

Brooks Newmark: How to eradicate the blight of rough sleeping once and for all by the end of this Parliament

16 Sep

Brooks Newmark was the MP for Braintree (2005-15), Minister for Civil Society (2014) and currently sits on the Government’s Roughsleepers Advisory Panel.

The recent annual figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) make sober reading. They show that in our capital alone there were 10,726 people sleeping rough between April 2019 and March this year, up from 8,855 last year and an increase of 21 per cent.

But worse still during the first quarter of the pandemic, people newly rough sleeping between April and June 2020 rose by 77 per cent compared to the same period last year.

As Jon Sparkes, the Chief Executive Officer of Crisis, the homelessness charity, said: “these figures reveal that pre-pandemic we were seeing record levels of people sleeping rough in our capital…and shows just how dire the underlying situation was even before the Coronavirus outbreak.”

Following the appointment of Louise Casey as Homelessness Czar in late March, the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, and Ministerial team acted swiftly, and offered 90 per cent of rough sleepers, that outreach workers had identified throughout the country, temporary housing, many in hotel rooms and other accommodation.

This was part of the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ strategy, and clearly saved lives by both protecting some of the most vulnerable in our society and preventing the further spread of the disease.

With night shelters closed and the generosity of friends providing housing for ‘sofa surfers’ no longer available, the Government housed almost 15,000 people in England within weeks. This was a massive achievement, and showed that it is possible with the right political will to tackle the blight of homelessness, especially rough sleeping.

However, with the Government emergency programme coming to an end, we risk seeing a massive resurgence of rough sleeping on our streets. One of the biggest threats has been the end of the eviction ban. The Government recently addressed this problem by extending the notice period given by landlords to tenants to six months through to March 2021.

Further, local councils, notwithstanding the duty of care explicit in Bob Blackman’s Homeless Reduction Bill, are beginning to re-enforce the three horses of the apocalypse when it comes to homelessness: people being told they either have no local connection to the area; no priority need for help because they are not ‘vulnerable’ enough; or, no recourse to public funds, even if they have lived and paid taxes in the UK for years. Again, the Government has sought in part to address this by providing an extra £105 million to councils.

But a bigger problem looms which is the end of the furlough program, which in the words of Crisis, could result in tens of thousands being pushed into homelessness. This at a time when winter is approaching and the spread of Coronavirus is on the upswing again. The Government have a duty of care to the homeless who are without doubt some of the most vulnerable in our society.

So what is the solution?

In the short run, the Government needs to rehouse the remaining rough sleepers who are currently in emergency accommodation. Further, there are a number of examples of councils and devolved governments who can provide best practices.

Liverpool City Council brought together all the housing associations that collectively are providing a central data base of housing availability, and giving a priority to rough sleepers and those who have found themselves homeless. As a result, Liverpool has all but eradicated rough sleeping in the City, and has closed its night shelter. The devolved Government in Wales has also shown the way by removing all legal restrictions from local councils and providing more funding per capita to address the problem. The result: Wales today literally only has a small handful of individuals, primarily those with complex needs who are still on the street.

If the Government is to prevent a tsunami of homelessness in 2021, it needs to have a robust homelessness prevention strategy in place before year-end, and should look to those parts of the United Kingdom where the issue is being addressed effectively.

This in essence means more money to councils to address the problem at the same time as more teeth to legislation to ensure councils do not revert to the bad old days of drawing on the arcane rules of intentionality, no local connection and priority need.

In the medium term, the Government should provide the support and funding to the Housing First Program. In 2017, I wrote a report at the Centre for Social Justice entitled Housing First: Housing led Solutions to Rough Sleeping and Homelessness’.

Its recommendations from twere adopted by the then Secretary of State for Housing, Sajid Javid, and Theresa May. There has now been a pilot of Housing First for the past three years in three city regions: West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Liverpool. The evidence is clear: for those rough sleepers and others who are homeless with complex needs, Housing First works, with recidivism almost negligible. In 2021, the Government should roll out 16,000 Housing First units nationwide.

In the longer term, the Government needs to roll out more social housing. While the Government should be applauded for its £12 billion Affordable Homes Programme which will provide up to 180,000 new homes across the country and a new Right to Shared Ownership, this is different than Social Housing, a point recently made by Polly Neate, the Chief Executive of Shelter and earlier made by the new MP for Devizes, Danny Kruger (who also worked in 10 Downing Street for Johnson) in an article on this site in July.

Kruger says the Government must “make a major new investment in building genuinely affordable social homes – not least for those millions of families living in poor private rented housing or temporary accommodation.”

The Prime Minister has a strong track record in seeking to address the blight of rough sleeping, especially when he was Mayor of London, with such schemes as ‘No Second Night Out.’ He has also shown a strong commitment to addressing the homelessness problem with his swift response to house over 15,000 rough sleepers and those in temporary accommodation at the start of the Covid crisis.

But if the Government is to maintain its momentum in this area, it needs to have a clear prevention strategy in place by year-end, provide a clear framework for local councils with more funding in place to provide housing for those most at risk of homelessness, and it needs to roll out the Housing First Programme nationally to provide both the homes and support for those with complex needs.

This Government has an immense opportunity to build on the good work of Johnson, Jenrick and Casey, until recently the Homelessness Czar, but it needs bold action and strong leadership now if it is to achieve its ambition to eradicate the blight of rough sleeping once and for all by the end of this Parliament.

Andy Cook: New stop and search powers are backed by the public – whatever the fashionable commentariat says

14 Sep

Andy Cook is Chief Executive of the Centre for Social Justice.

This week is law and order week, with the Government re-booting its domestic narrative using a series of tough on crime messages. It would be easy to dismiss this as simply managing a party hungry to see the benefits of a sizeable Conservative majority. Getting tough on crime isn’t just red-meat to the party faithful; it’s fundamental to any ambition to re-build local economies. You can’t even begin to spread opportunity or prosperity if the streets around you are too dangerous to walk. It’s a social justice issue, every but as much as it is about public safety. We’ve seen an upward national trend of offenders being caught repeatedly carrying knives over the last ten years, and in our major cities, especially London, this is becoming the norm in neighbourhoods that have been left behind.

That’s why we should cheer the announcement of a new form of stop and search which targets those carrying knives or weapons intent on doing harm to others. What’s more, these new powers to intervene are backed by the public and, crucially, from all white and non-white voters. If you live on a street where you children stand a good chance of being stabbed by someone carrying a knife, you’re going to support measures to put an end to the violence on your door-step. Don’t listen to the fashionable ‘commentariat’; this is a bold and popular move, even in London the polling is clear-cut with fewer than one in 10 Londoners actively opposing ‘stop and search’ powers. We found just 15 per cent of non-white Londoners and eight per cent of white Londoners opposed a new form of ‘suspicionless’ stop and search for limited periods in areas they believe will experience serious violence.

These Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs), which were a manifesto commitment, were first proposed by the Centre for Social Justice in our 2018 report, It Can Be Stopped.

SVROs are designed to ensure repeat offenders are more likely to be caught and put in prison. SVROs send a strong message that violence and carrying weapons can and will be stopped. SVROs apply to individuals previously convicted of carrying a knife or an offensive weapon, including those who have received non-custodial sentences such as community orders or suspended sentences. The orders would be imposed by a court, which could also decide on the exact length of the order. Police are then given the powers they need to stop and search those who are subject to an SVRO to check if they are unlawfully carrying a knife or offensive weapon again.

It takes us a step close to addressing the fundamental issue that came from the huge collapse in stop and search: a significant minority of people who feel they can carry weapons without reasonable fear of detection. This measure backs the police to take action at a time when they need a government on their side to make our streets safer. It would require those most likely to possess a weapon after being sentenced, on contact with police, to prove to them they aren’t carrying one or be subjected to a search.

When we looked into this issue we found too many police officers, especially newer recruits, reluctant to use the powers given to them. After the largest and most sustained collapse in stop and search since records began, the effect of such a targeted intervention on gangsters used to carrying and using weapons is an important message to officers patrolling our streets that we understand they need to hear support for stepping in.

The Government’s commitment to rolling out SVROs is one of the many tools we need to land a knock-out blow required to change things on our increasingly violent streets. There’s £70million announced to develop Violence Reduction Units to divert people away from crime and changing the law to make it a legal requirement for public bodies to work together to address the root causes of serious violence. It’s not enough, we’ll be calling for bigger investment in years to come but it is the right move.

The Government trumpeted its intent to recruit an extra 20,000 bobbies on the beat, a bold vote winning move. But at the time we said it wasn’t enough if it didn’t come with the power and confidence to step in and do the job they were recruited for. Our research tells us that these measures are supported by the great majority of people living in some of our most deprived communities, who want to see the scourge of knife crime and the routine carrying of weapons brought to an end. The Home Secretary should feel emboldened to carry on and do just that.

Neil O’Brien: Why closing the marriage gap between rich and poor is a vital mission for social justice

27 Jul

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

Our daughter just had her last day at nursery. In the autumn she’s off to school. We’re sponging second-hand uniform from friends. It feels like just the other day I was driving home after her birth, flakes of snow streaking through the headlights.

Our baby son can suddenly crawl fast. He wants to climb the stairs, and chew any bits of cardboard he finds lying around.

My sister has unearthed a trove of old black and white family photos. There’s lots of things that catch the eye: Glasgow’s housing estates looking shiny and newly-built; the funny looking cars; the endless cigarettes. The bigger families too: my gran with her two children from before the war, and two after.

It set me thinking about family. Ten years ago we talked about it a lot. David Cameron’s criticism of “Broken Britain” highlighted work by the Centre for Social Justice on family breakdown and poverty. The most eye-catching pledge during his leadership campaign was a marriage tax break.

Over the last five years there’s been a lot of other things doing on, to say the least.  But as the new government starts to set out its domestic agenda, family should be part of it.

Politicians are nervous talking about family. It’s not just bad memories of the 1990s, when we screwed up and sounded like moralising hypocrites against a backdrop of sleaze.

It’s a deeper fear of sounding critical of friends and relations. We all have close friends who have been through everything: raising kids alone, divorce, abortion, bereavement and so on. I think of a friend who has raised two wonderful kids alone. Another single friend helped look after a young person when no-one else would. I don’t know how anyone manages to do it single-handed: they’re amazing people.

Some worry family policy will be about condemning them, or that politicians want to try and trap unhappy couples together. It mustn’t be about either. Instead, it has to be about two different things.

First, helping people with children financially, and with practical help, particularly during the difficult years with small children. Having no money on top of no sleep and endlessly crying babies makes it harder to sustain relationships.

Second, it should be about support and building up the social capital that many middle class people in politics take for granted. Indeed, it’s about healing a split in our society.

Let me explain.

Politicians who are serious about reducing poverty and spreading opportunity can’t avoid thinking about families and households.  Last year 23 per cent of children in couple households were below the fixed poverty line, after housing costs, compared to 38 per cent of children in lone parent households.

Controlling for other factors, A CSJ report found those who experience family breakdown when aged 18 or younger are twice as likely be in trouble with the police or spend time in prison, and almost twice as likely to underachieve educationally. They’re more likely to suffer mental health issues.

One part of family policy should be direct help families with children. I’d love to see us recognise children in the tax system, as we did until the 1970s: our tax system is unusually family-unfriendly. We should help working families with children on Universal Credit keep more what they earn before it gets tapered away. The CSJ has called for higher child benefit for parents of young children.

But we need to go deeper, and recognise that the links between family breakdown and low income run in both directions. Over recent decades a quiet revolution has taken place, and richer and poorer people now live in very different family structures.

Between 1979 and 2000, the proportion of households with dependent children which were lone parent households grew from 11 per cent to 25 per cent, then remained at that level, dipping a bit in recent years to 22 per cent in 2019. Since 1979, the proportion which are married couples fell from 89 per cent to 61 per cent.

There are few countries in Europe where children are less likely to live with both parents than Britain. It’s more likely that a teenager sitting their GCSEs will own a smartphone (about 95 per cent) than live with both parents (58 per cent).

But these headline stats conceal a massive social split, which starts at the point of birth and widens out.

For those in the top socioeconomic group, 75 per cent of children are born to parents who are married; another 22 per cent are jointly registered to parents cohabiting; 2 per cent are jointly registered to parents living apart, and just 1 per cent registered by one parent only.

At the bottom end of the scale, 35 per cent are born to married parents, 38 per cent to cohabiting parents, 21 per cent jointly to parents living apart and 6 per cent registered by just one parent.

These huge differences weren’t always there. For people at the top, family life looks similar to their parents’ generation. For people on lower incomes, society looks utterly different. A marriage gap has opened up, and society has been splitting apart into different family structures for rich and poor.

In the 1970s, mothers of pre-school children were equally likely to be married whether they had a degree or not, and 90 per cent plus were. By 2006 for mothers with a degree that was down to 86 per cent, but for non-graduate mothers it fell to 52 per cent.

Between 1988 and 2018 the proportion of jointly registered births which were to married parents fell from 90 per cent to about 77 per cent for the top socio-economic group. At the other end of the scale it fell from 70 per cent to 37 per cent.

Equally, it’s impossible to understand modern Britain without appreciating the different families people from different ethnic groups live in.

In 2011, among households with dependent children, for white households 53 per cent were married couples, 16 per cent cohabiting couples, 25 per cent lone parents, and 7 per cent other household types (mainly multigenerational households).

Among Indian households with dependent children, far more were married couples or multigenerational households.  68 per cent were married couples, 2 per cent cohabiting couples, 9 per cent lone parents and 21 per cent in multigenerational households.

Among black Caribbean households 28 per cent were married couples, 11 per cent cohabiting couples, 47 per cent were lone parents and 14 per cent in multigenerational households.

People of different ethnicities live in very different families, which influences everything else.

Most voters favour government taking action to support family life. But in Whitehall there’s scepticism: can the state do anything about these trends?

The truth is we don’t really know. As it happens, at the point when government stopped publishing its measure of family stability in 2016, the trend seemed to be moving back a little towards more children living with both parents.

Whitehall can be too pessimistic. Until Michael Howard, the consensus was that nothing could be done about rising crime. He proved the consensus wrong. Likewise, in the 1990s Whitehall had given up on helping lone parents into work. But successive reforms (under governments of all parties) doubled their rate of employment.

It’s not like there’s no ideas about how to help.  There’s masses and masses of recommendations gathering dust on think tank shelves, covering everything: tax, benefits, family hubs, relationship education in schools, birth registration, pre-and postnatal support…

My modest proposal is this: let’s do a major programme of controlled trials to test these ideas, and see what, if anything, makes a difference. Happily for the Treasury, experiments are cheaper than rolling things out nationally.

But we have to try. The costs are too high not to. They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time is today. Let’s plant some seeds.

Christian Guy: Today’s real slavery scandal. There are 100,000 slaves in Britain today – the tip of an international iceberg

13 Jul

Christian Guy is Chief Executive of the anti-slavery organisation Justice and Care. He was formerly a Special Adviser to David Cameron in 10 Downing Street, and a Chief Executive of the Centre for Social Justice.

Daniel grew up in Swansea but became homeless at 16 when he fell out with his Mum. He struggled with mental health and a learning disability. Soon after, a local family of traffickers took Daniel and forced him to work on a scrap yard without pay.

He was beaten and abused so brutally by slave masters that when he was eventually rescued by police, the nurse who cared for him said he had the worst injuries she had ever seen. “He looked like somebody from a concentration camp”, she concluded.

A new report from Justice and Care and the Centre for Social Justice finds there are at least 100,000 slaves like Daniel in Britain today, based on access to new police data. Experts admit it is likely even higher. But we find very few of them: the largest estimate any UK Government had previously made was just 13,000.

When the 13,000 victims estimate was made the Government also calculated slavery’s annual social and economic cost at £3-4 billion, likely well-short of the true figure. And with British nationals the largest group of victims found, this cannot simply be dismissed as a UK Border problem.

What it can become is a mission for this Government, which has rightly put law, order and tackling hidden harms high on its to-do list. For example, last year more than 10,000 potential slaves were found here, but only 219 people were convicted for slavery-related offences. Criminals setting up in the human trafficking trade consider Britain a low-risk place to do business in 2020.

Yet one principle would turn that on its head: start to care for the abused properly, and they will help dismantle the organised crime groups running riot. Victims are key witnesses and many want justice. They are our greatest asset. Yet just as we fail to send most traffickers to prison, we leave too many victims alone, destitute and easily re-trafficked. This is a moral mistake and a strategic error.

Some view victim care as a soft option. This is wrong and delights traffickers. Woeful support has victims running a mile or stuck in silence. However, get those things right and they often talk. This is something my charity sees on a daily basis. Our pilot Victim Navigator initiative is already proving it: 88 per cent of the victims that Justice and Care supported in the first year of the programme are engaging with police and giving vital evidence that would otherwise have been lost. Cases police would have closed are now heading towards prosecution.

Today’s report, It Still Happens Here, also calls for longer-term support for victims – backing Iain Duncan Smith and Lord McColl’s Bill due back in Parliament soon. We argue that for victims cooperating with police investigations or prosecutions beyond the 12 months the Bill would help them for, we should issue US-style ‘Trafficking Visas’. They provide a lifeline for victims helping to get justice done (in America they never reach their annual cap).

Yet good care does not mean everyone stays in the UK. We also call for fast-track repatriation schemes for those who want to return home. Working with charities and other Governments we should be helping people home within 72 hours if they want to. With support when they return and bodies like the EU taking more responsibility, we could close the re-trafficking revolving door and take their evidence on video links if cases move forward. This is the Zoom era – we need to innovate. Let’s treat victims with decency and respect and watch our conviction rates rocket.

Other recommendations focus on ending the benefit fraud traffickers manage on an industrial scale. We found many cases, but one struck me in particular: 70 people were registered for benefits using the same mobile phone number and nobody at the JobCentre noticed. We even heard about abuse of the Treasury’s Furlough scheme, with traffickers claiming payments for victims they were forcing into other lockdown abuse when car washes and nail bars closed.

And on the subject of businesses, action must be taken in two urgent ways.

First, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority has to deal more effectively with exploitative UK workplaces such as the one we read about in Leicester. Not only are they illegal, they risk undermining our COVID recovery.

Second, we have to get tougher on international supply chains – thousands of businesses either continue to ignore the Modern Slavery Act’s requirement to root it out, or they lie in their statements with no follow-up scrutiny. This must be dealt with – fines, Director disqualification or even criminal charges included.

Finally, nearly 60 per cent of people we polled do not know what to do when they spot potential slavery. This is a problem. The police rely on local people being ‘eyes and ears’, and indeed it was a worried member of the public who reported Daniel’s condition when they caught a glimpse of it.

So, from the top down it is time for us to make good on our commitment ‘to lead the world’ in the fight against the ownership of one human being by another. People like Daniel are counting on us.