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2020 Annual Report

Kerry Smith

A Message from Kerry Smith, Chief Executive Officer

It is hard to put 2020 into words. We began the year optimistic about our ability to grow and create new support pathways for our clients. Then along with the rest of the world we were forced to modify our plans rapidly and one of the key questions became how we could make sure that our services to Survivors didn’t stop.

It was clear that the Survivors of trafficking and torture we work with were at risk of a significant deterioration in their mental and physical health and level of protection during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the challenges they face around housing, mental health, digital access and language barriers, to name but a few. In our experience, crisis is also a time when the risk of abuse, exploitation and re-trafficking increases exponentially.

Despite these challenges, the generosity, determination and community spirit that our clients, supporters and team of staff and volunteers demonstrated during this year has been something that I will never forget. From one of our clients who told their therapist “I know that that I can’t lose it [my mind], I need to think of others and help out”, to our team who immediately changed the way they worked to support isolated and vulnerable clients on a weekly basis. We all pulled together to maintain our vital existing services and add new ones during the course of the year, including our Welfare Calls Initiave which meant our volunteers spoke with Survivors and made almost 1500 phone calls to clients, providing direct, human support in the worst of times. Our supporters also changed they way they worked, which allowed us to continue to provide much needed help during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also ensure that other critical services could be saved — such as the legal representation provided by Asylum Aid to Survivors.

I have never been as proud of the Helen Bamber and Asylum Aid community as I am right now.

It is clear that our work and presence has never been more needed. The punitive and unworkable proposals made by this government in the Nationality and Boarders Bill demonstrate its complete lack of understanding of what Survivors have experienced and a heartless disregard for their need for help and support, while increasing the risks that Survivors face — including further abuse, exploitation and re-trafficking.

We have a responsibility to ensure that more Survivors of trafficking and torture are given the strength to fly. Therefore together with Survivors, and through ambitious partnerships, our new strategy will focus on driving forward the changes that are needed in the UK and internationally to address Survivors’ exposure to risk of re-trafficking exploitation and abuse. I am hugely excited about the transformation we can make for Survivors in the UK and globally by joining together.

Kerry Smith, CEO Helen Bamber Foundation Group