The importance of free skills-based training programmes for survivors of human trafficking

At Bramber Bakehouse we’re often surprised by the sheer number of women applying to join the programme. Many have experienced years of abuse at the hands of their traffickers and the opportunity to focus on their future, learn a new skill and build community is what they’ve been waiting for.

At Bramber Bakehouse, we want to see women survivors of human trafficking equipped and empowered to live independent lives. We believe providing free skills-based training opportunities is fundamental to this and we’ve got the evidence to prove it!

A Renewed Confidence

Between June 2019 and July 2020 the Salvation Army identified 2,592 victims of human trafficking through the Adult Victims of Modern Slavery Care and Co-ordination Services Contract. 1,264 were women. 

Exploitation leaves many suffering significant trauma, left with no confidence and little understanding of their true value. Through our baking and employability programme (in partnership with the Sophie Hayes Foundation) we work to harness an environment where women are highly valued and appreciated at every given moment. From the 24 graduates we’ve had the pleasure of teaching, 97% said their confidence has been renewed during their time with us. 

Following her graduation, Sandra* used her new found confidence and returned to Bramber Bakehouse in an informal ‘mentor’ capacity, supporting our new cohort. Is there anything more powerful than those who have renewed confidence empowering others?! 

Time and time again we hear anti-trafficking organisations and survivors express the value of skills-based programmes providing time for restoration and recovery, away from weekly counselling sessions and regular 121 meetings. The opportunity to meet regularly, learn a new skill in a different environment and have something to focus on, gives a chance for fresh perspective. 

“I learnt a lot of different experiences, how to be confident by myself, how to handle stress and many more skills.”

*Esther – Cohort 4 

A Driver for Future Success

For each of our graduates, success looks different; some want to study, some want to work, many simply want to learn a new skill which they can use to bless their friends and family! Whatever the outcome, we see Bramber Bakehouse as a driver for the future success of our graduates. 

We’ve seen it first hand and celebrated successes alongside them whilst they’ve been on the programme, and beyond! Last year, one of our graduates applied to study Media Communications at University and was accepted on the course! We were so privileged to share part of her journey with her and we long to see more women step into their true purpose. 

A large proportion of our cohort are awaiting the Right to Remain in the UK and therefore, the Right to Work. We recognise the importance skills-based training programmes have in building a strong case for victims of human trafficking to receive this status. At Bramber Bakehouse, we take every opportunity to write letters of reference for our wonderful cohorts, providing evidence of their drive and determination to succeed and make a life for themselves. 

Can Free Skills-Based Programmes be Sustainable?

We certainly think so! 

We recognise running free skills-based training programmes can be costly but we strongly believe it’s the right thing to do. We don’t want to create any barriers to furthering a womens’ future and that’s why our programmes are completely free. We’re also thankful for courses like ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages), providing free English lessons for many survivors of human trafficking.

To make Bramber Bakehouse sustainable, we’re working towards a model where baked products fund the cost of future programmes. Our goal is not only to continue providing free skills-based training programmes to as many women survivors as possible, but also to provide work placements, bridging the gap between skills and work. 

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*All real names have been changed to protect participant identities.