Home Office Minister Karen Bradley has announced that public authorities including the police, local authorities and the National Crime Agency, will from today be required to notify the government where they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be a victim of slavery or human trafficking.
A new duty from the Modern Slavery Act 2015 will help to raise awareness of modern slavery and improve identification of victims of the crime.
Karen Bradley, the Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation said:
The scourge of modern slavery has no place in our society.
Our historic Modern Slavery Act means that those who trade in human beings now face life in jail. It has also given the police greater powers to deal with these criminal gangs and greater protection for victims.
The duty to notify will help raise awareness of modern slavery and build a more comprehensive picture of the nature and scale of the crime, to better inform the law enforcement response.
It is estimated that there were 10,000 to 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013, with only 1,746 potential victims referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
Given the hidden nature of modern slavery, it is likely that only a small proportion of victims of modern slavery are encountered by public authorities and, of those, a smaller proportion are referred to the NRM.
The duty currently applies to the police, local authorities, the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force staff.
Other public authorities and non-government organisations are also encouraged to make a voluntary notification despite not being bound by the duty, in order to help build the picture of modern slavery in the UK.