‘Going places: Journeys to Recovery’: New research highlights benefits of free travel on recovery for survivors of modern slavery

A recently published report by the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham has emphasised significant benefits of subsidised travel on the recovery of survivors of modern slavery and its knock-on impact on their children. 

Pioneering in its own respect, it is the first study of its kind looking at the transport needs of survivors of modern slavery, who are supported through the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

Read the ‘Going Places: Journeys to Recovery’ report here. 

One hundred modern slavery survivors in London received a free Oyster Card with prepaid balances of £100, which Hestia distributed for use over three months between 2019 and early 2020.

Alongside the Rights Lab in Nottingham, Hestia played a huge role in facilitating this research, with service users from our modern slavery service willingly participating in the study.

Travel is a crucial benefactor in the process of recovery for many survivors of modern slavery and far too often they are left with little to no means to cover regular transport costs needed to improve their wellbeing through social activities and attending appointments. 

The report says that prior to the survey being conducted, survivors said the expense of travel was a reason they missed out on services they are entitled to. 

81 per cent often made sacrifices such as not eating or buying less nappies and toys to stretch their weekly subsistence allowance.

19 per cent of all survivor respondents claim the given subsistence allowance as not being sufficient and shared that they were struggling on a weekly basis to make ends meet. 

The collaborative research project confirmed a number of benefits of travel on health and well-being for modern slavery survivors, including:

  • Less stress and isolation 
  • Greater confidence 
  • Sense of independence 
  • Empowerment to make decisions 
  • Being able to build and maintain social networks 
  • Feeling useful to others 

100 per cent of survey respondents stated they had not missed any ECAT or other appointments, and were able to use transport to explore London, take English classes, socialise and join new activities. 

“It prevented isolation and made me feel empowered and encouraged to explore my area and surrounding areas.” - Survivor 

There is also great implications for survivors’ children as they have the valuable opportunity to have outings with their kids and as one survivor says being able: 

 “To see friends, attending activities we wouldn’t normally do like sightseeing around London and days out for the children.” 

Another survivor was able to get into the Christmas spirit and participate in the festivities of the season: 

 “I visited places around London. Hyde Park at Christmas was the best day out.” 

Hestia staff who were supporting survivors expressed that free transport meant they could spend more time concentrating on other aspects of their recovery, rather than being worried about how their clients would get to appointments: 

“I know a lot of my clients just get the money together to go to the really important appointments but then they have nothing left. So they can’t do anything to enjoy or see friends or go to church more than once a week. It’s a really big financial struggle.” 

As Hestia is the largest provider of modern slavery support in London, it is fantastic to be part of such landmark research of this scope, which will create a pathway for wider studies nationwide. 

Read the ‘Going Places: Journeys to Recovery’ report here.