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A Day in the Life of an About Face Case Worker

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Outside West Yorkshire is at its best with blue skies, green grass and grazing sheep, but the room where we meet Sophie is very different. In the New Hall Prison visiting room we’re cold, the only pretence at comfort comes from the foam padding on the seats.

Sophie is my first client today. We met seven months ago when she was referred to the About Face programme with a history of substance misuse from an early age, which led to a burglary conviction and time in a Young Offenders prison. We’d met with her and her alcohol worker, and had helped her join a volunteering organisation in order to fight one of the main barriers to her recovery: boredom.

Though all our clients volunteer for our services because they want to change, only four weeks in Sophie was recalled to prison after being found working the streets trying to earn money for drugs and alcohol. It’s rarely an easy road.

Today she looked tired and defeated. We are one of few visitors she gets. We talk about what education programmes she’s enrolled in and what her plans are for the next few months and by the time we say goodbye, she’s perked up and looking forward to the afternoon and getting outside for a few hours.

On our way to a home visit I get a call from South Yorkshire Police about Trevor. Trevor is one of our clients who has been doing really well, but now he’s broken his licensing conditions and is being recalled to prison. It’s a blow – Trevor had strong motivation to rebuild his life and most importantly to regain contact with his children. But he’s living in the community surrounded by the things he is trying to move on from, so it’s difficult.

There will always be bumps in the path from criminality to desistance that individuals like Trevor will need to navigate with our support. If Trevor is open to our visiting him in prison while he serves the remainder of his sentence we will. When he’s released we will do everything we can to support him as he integrates into a new community, and rebuilds his relationship with his kids.

My final meeting for the day is a good one. I go to see Brian at his home. He has a cup of tea and a huge smile waiting for me as he tells me he’s got a job. Three months ago we connected him with at a local community centre where he completed an employability skills training course, his local Job Centre arranged an interview for him, and a fantastic charity fitted him out with his very own brand new suit. For the first time in years, Brian feels motivated towards something positive and can see himself in a stable job. It’s a big win.

Each day as an About Face key worker brings new challenges for me and for the clients I work with. It’s never straightforward, and sometimes the setbacks can seem discouraging. But we don’t ever give up on a client, and we continue to work with someone for as long as they want our support. We’re working with a lot of people from very troubled backgrounds, but there are still so many positives, and no matter how small a victory is, we celebrate, as they represent a step in the direction of desistance from crime and into building a brand new life.

About Face supports men and women who have a history within the Criminal Justice System and are vulnerable to re-offending behaviour. Through a designated mentor, we prepare individuals for the transition from incarceration to integration into the community, helping them live positive and fully restored lives.
This service forms part of our commitment to starting at the source, supporting not just survivors but also perpetrators, to create a better society.

Top UK retailer John Lewis backs job scheme for slavery victims

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Britain’s largest department store group has joined a project that offers slavery victims four-week paid work placements that can lead to a permanent job.

Read the full article here.

Jonas’ Story

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Jonas was just days away from being sold into a paedophile ring.

He witnessed his mother’s brutal exploitation, acted as carer to her and his younger brother, but is now transitioning into a British High School with a new hope.
Children, like Jonas, are not financially supported by the Government’s provision in the same way their parents are. Waiting lists for therapy such as counselling is months long, and there is no provision at all for staff to work with children to assess their emotional needs and support with the family unit as a whole.

Their stories vary a lot, as some children come to us without any spoken English, others have difficult relationships with their parents due to being separated from them for lengths of time. Many have witnessed horrific crimes against their mothers and fathers and many have been part of unthinkable abuse.

Through the generous support of donors, we have been able to grow the Family Support team and expand the number of children that we can support. The team draw up individual plans of support for each child who are referred to the team, according to their needs and goals. As well as running family Drop-In’s, trips and school holiday activities, the Family Support team run one-to-one family unit or child sessions. These vary from behaviour charts, food taster sessions, emotional support, speech and English support, referring to local children’s groups, specialized children counselling and respite from family care.

Jonas, now 12 years old, lives with his mum and three year old brother. His mother suffered brutally when trafficked, and he experienced the most degrading and inhumane treatment too. When the two were rescued we discovered that Jonas was days away from being sold into a pedophile ring.

Since coming to City Hearts with his pregnant mum, and after his brother was born, Jonas has been a huge support and carer for his mum as she works through her trauma, and is helping to raise his little brother. He is the man of the house. All of this whilst being their translator and working through the normal struggles of a young boy transitioning to a British high school. The Family Support team have been involved with their family for a long time, but through your funding have been able to offer extra valuable support as they received the difficult news that Jonas was struggling and being bullied at school.

The Family Support worker became a key role of support for him, acting as mediator in the school bullying situation, and helped him build his confidence through anti-bullying role play, referring him to community young Carers groups, helping him to access specialized child counselling, a new sport club and respite activities. The activities have proved to be a huge support to him. During some of the most difficult weeks, when he was feeling particularly low – a couple of hours a week to just be a child, to relax, unwind and have fun really helped him to cope.

This is just one story, of one family.

 

City Hearts Launches in Aberdeen

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This month sees the launch of Modern Slavery Charity City Hearts in Aberdeen. Caring for some of the most vulnerable and exploited men, women and children in the country, City Hearts Aberdeen will begin their work by providing care for women with life controlling issues, with future plans to become part of the support network for the care of survivors of Modern Slavery in Scotland.

Scotland has been identified as the largest pathway of child trafficking in the United Kingdom, and the Scottish government are working hard to put into place policy and legislation that identifies and supports victims, and prosecute those found guilty of trafficking.

As part of the UK Government’s response to Modern Slavery, City Heart (UK) opened their doors in 2005 and have since cared for over 4000 victims of Modern Slavery. Their mission is to pursue the freedom and restore the lives of some of the most vulnerable and exploited people in society. They do this through services such as Safe Houses, Outreach Support, Counselling and Integration Programmes which promote independence, full integration into society and building trust in humanity once again.

In partnership with the Co-operative Group, City Hearts also hopes to develop the Bright Futures Programme in Scotland. In addition to providing training and work placements, the Bright Future Programme aims to employ 300 people who have been rescued from enslavement by 2020.

“We are really excited to be launching our charity in the North East of Scotland.  We hope to grow and establish the charity and link with agencies across the area to help survivors of modern slavery and those struggling with life controlling issues.”

– Kirsty Wilson, a City Hearts Regional Manager

Police tackling rise in ‘pop-up brothels’

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In the last 9 months, South Yorkshire police alone have received 48 intelligence reports regarding pop-up brothels in Sheffield, and on 5 of these occasions victims of modern slavery have been discovered.

Louise Durham, City Hearts Head of Services says, “It is a huge issue, and a one of the biggest crimes in our country hidden in plain sight. These men, women and sadly children are threatened and beaten, they’re petrified.”

“Quite often they (pop-up brothels) operate in apartments because people can let themselves in and a lot of people coming and going isn’t suspect.”

 

Signs of a pop-up brothel may include:

  • Multiple women living at the address, or numbers of women being brought to and taken from the address by someone else
  • Multiple vehicles visiting the property at any one time
  • Many frequent visitors, usually male, who don’t stay for long periods of time

If you suspect a pop-up brothel is operating in your area, please contact your local police or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

Follow this link more information on the BBC Pop-Up Brothel story.

300 Jobs for Survivors of Modern Slavery by 2020

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Up to 300 jobs are to be created within the next two years for survivors of modern-day slavery.

Up to 300 jobs are to be created within the next two years for survivors of modern-day slavery under a programme led by the Co-operative Group in partnership with local charity City Hearts.

Some of the UK’s leading businesses, are set to create up to 300 jobs for the victims of Modern Slavery by 2020.

Under the Bright Futures Programme, the Co-operative Group is working with City Hearts to provide work for people who are rescued from enslavement.

Already more than 30 vulnerable survivors are being given a chance to rebuild their lives after securing placements through Bright Future.

The Co-op said as many as 20 large firms are on the verge of signing up.

City Hearts have developed The National Matching System which will match candidates from Referring Partners, to Bright Future work placements, provided by Business Partners. Business Partners and referring partners will be required to sign up to minimum standards to ensure quality and consistency of principles and approach.

Importantly, The National Matching System also supports the candidates every step of the way through the process and beyond, through regular communication, practical and emotional assistance when required.

Co-op chief executive Steve Murrells said “We think of slavery as something for the history books but it is happening in the UK at this very moment. This is a blight on our society which impacts on our fellow human beings in the most unimaginable ways as they are stripped of their freedom and their dignity. Hidden in plain sight working in nail bars, car washes and in private homes.

“Having heard at first hand the harrowing stories of people who have been caught up in this heinous crime, I am proud that we are working to help eliminate it.

“It is clear that victims need to be supported while they rebuild their lives and central to that is the dignity that paid, freely chosen employment provides. Without this, there is a real chance that they could fall back into the hands of those who have exploited them and for the terrible, unspeakable cycle of enslavement to begin again.”

In addition to the Bright Future’s Programme and the National Matching Network, City Hearts vision is that all its services support survivors to thrive, by living independently and integrating fully into society.

City Hearts’ Project Development Manager Phill Clayton says “City Hearts works with victims of exploitation all over the world, pursing freedom and restoring the lives of some of the most vulnerable.

“We are proud to be working with the Coop, helping survivors in the UK rebuild their lives one step at time. A supported pathway to employment is a huge step on the road to restoration. With stable income comes hope of a brighter future, so many victims have had the freedom to work stolen from them, some for decades, bright future is a launch pad to a new life.

“We are committed to seeing lives fully restored. “

 

Follow link for the full BBC story.

41 ‘extremely vulnerable’ rescued in raids across North West England.

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This month, City Hearts played a critical role in the rescue of 41 ‘extremely vulnerable’ people in raids across North West England.

Thanks to the trusting relationships built at our Drop-ins, which provide on-going support to survivors of Modern Slavery, our team identified a suspicious working arrangement which one individual found themselves in.  This resulted in a tip off, which led to a major investigation by Merseyside Police and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) which resulted in raids on 12 homes and the rescue of 41 workers suspected to be the victims of Modern Slavery.

City Hearts Regional Manager Phill Clayton, told BBC Look North that the client “was vulnerable and not understanding what was right and what was wrong. It felt not okay to him, he felt like he needed to get advice. And that’s what we do, we help people like that.”

GLAA senior investigating officer Martin Plimmer said the victims were all forced to work at food processing and packaging plants in Greater Manchester.

“They were not aware of their rights, they were being told where to live, they were being told where to be, they were being transported,” he said.

“At every stage there was somebody controlling their movements. This was being done by fear. The whole purpose of this gang was to exploit these people.”

For the full story head to the BBC website.

City Hearts Statement – March 2018

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On 14th March, Channel 4 raised a number of concerns relating to some of the services provided by City Hearts to which we gave the following response:

“City Hearts is currently helping safeguard over 600 women, men and children – assisting them to recover from the evils of Modern Slavery. We have so far helped around 4,250 people to go on to lead fulfilling independent lives.

We seek to uphold the highest standards of excellence and diversity, and have been very disappointed to hear the allegations you have brought to our attention.

We are of course investigating these matters and in the meantime it would be inappropriate for us to comment publicly, especially in relation to the individuals involved.

We will in any event review our policies and procedures to try to make sure we are as supportive and protective as we can be in supporting people whose lives have been so badly harmed by the evil of Modern Slavery.”

City Hearts – March 2018

City Hearts Supports Survivors into Employment

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Read the BBC News Article here

On 18th January 2018, City Hearts will present to a round table meeting, hosted by Rt Hon Frank Field MP at the Houses of Parliament.  The meeting seeks to engage businesses in supporting survivors of Modern Slavery with an employment opportunity after their time in a safe house.

Over the past year, we have developed a pathway which has seen over 30 survivors complete a tailored job placement with the Coop, which has transformed their lives.  City Hearts exists to pursue freedom and restore lives and we know that a stable income alongside meaningful community allows a survivor to enjoy a lasting freedom.

City Hearts is currently caring for 500 men, women and children who are survivors of Modern Slavery in our safe houses and outreach programmes.  This is part of the Government’s 45 day reflection and recovery period for victims.  Those we support have been through the most traumatic of circumstances, having been repeatedly abused and exploited.  Although much can be achieved in 45 days, to see a life fully restored requires longer term support.  This is why we developed longer term care through the Integration Support Programme (ISP).

The ISP is a safety net which prevents survivors from finding themselves in places of extreme vulnerability, such as retrafficking or homelessness.  It means no survivor is left involuntarily without support and provides a place of great community through our Drop Ins, which we aim to be the best day of someone’s week.

To accelerate someone along their pathway to freedom, the ISP connects survivors to local Coop Bright Future placements.  Under the scheme, the Coop provides survivors with a four week paid work placement with a guaranteed non-competitive interview for a job at the end.  Before, during and after this time, City Hearts support is vital.

The results have been amazing.  Peter was exploited in a car wash and then forced to open fraudulent bank accounts to aid his traffickers’ money laundering.  He is one of many, who is now working in a store.  He said, ‘I love my life now.  I enjoy waking up every morning.  This is the ideal working environment for me.  The people here are seriously nice.’

Ed Newton, City Hearts Managing Director, said ‘We are committed and honoured to play a part in the journey of recovery for survivors.  A job represents food on the table, a home and community to be part of and improved confidence.  At today’s meeting, we hope that more businesses will come on board to see many more survivors fully restored.’


 

For further information or to support us in the fight against Modern Slavery, please contact our Head Office on press@cityhearts.co.uk or call 0114 213 2063.

Police Raid on ‘Pop Up’ Brothels in Sheffield

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Last week, modern slavery made the headlines in Sheffield and City Hearts were invited by South Yorkshire Police to provide victim support for women rescued from suspected ‘pop-up brothels’ in Sheffield’s city centre.

“Sexual exploitation through trafficking is one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery here in South Yorkshire” says Det Sgt Nikki Leach, from the force’s anti-slavery unit.

“Every survivor that has been rescued and that we can support, is another life changed. And to play any part of their journey to recovery is a privilege.” – City Hearts Team.

To read the article in the Star, click here.