In Focus: Vulnerability  

HSBC rolls out service to help victims of trafficking

HSBC rolls out service to help victims of trafficking
 Photo by Kristya Nugraha via Pexels

HSBC UK has teamed up with charities to help provide bank accounts for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, as well as provide a refuge service for victims of domestic abuse.

As part of the bank's work to increase its support for the most vulnerable members of society, it has launched a scheme called 'Survivor Bank' to provide basic bank accounts to survivors of trafficking and slavery in the UK.

So far 118 branches operate the scheme, and more than 860 accounts have been set up.

HSBC UK is working closely with a number of charities, including the Salvation Army, Kalayaan and Migrant Help, using a tailored application process aligned to the National Referral Mechanism.

This is the UK government's framework for identifying and referring potential victims and ensuring they receive appropriate support.

Because survivors of slavery often end up with no formal identity, such as a passport, it is impossible for them to get a bank account - and therefore a job or safe accommodation. 

In the UK 6,993 people were referred to British authorities as potential victims of trafficking in 2018. This is up from 5,142 in 2017, according to figures from the National Crime Agency.

A bank account provides one element of support victims may need to avoid ending up back in the hands of the traffickers. 

Services for survivors of human trafficking were piloted in HSBC UK branches in Nottingham and Glasgow between June 2018 and March 2019.

Charity partners introduced survivors to specially trained bank staff to work through the process of opening an account, and 24 people were helped to open an account.

HSBC UK has now rolled out the initiative to more branches in areas of high potential need, including Bishopsgate (London), Birmingham and Manchester. 

At the same time, the bank has joined the Safe Spaces initiative, where banks and other organisations offer their branches as a 'safe space' to survivors of domestic abuse needing help.

The Safe Space, which contains posters of national domestic abuse helplines and a phone for the individual to use, is open to anyone in the local area who needs to use it whether they are an HSBC customer or not.

HSBC also provides a national sort code to its customers who request it, or can be suggested if the customer tells HSBC they are experiencing financial abuse.

This means the abusive partner cannot trace them using the sort code - which is usually tied to a certain bank in a certain location.

Overall, HSBC works with 96 charities on Survivor Bank and on its No Fixed Address service for people experiencing homelessness.

simoney.kyriakou@ft.com