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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-modern-slavery/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-modern-slavery
Measures announced over recent weeks to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) have seen people’s day-to-day life be drastically altered. These changes are essential to beat coronavirus and protect our NHS. Modern slavery is a harmful and hidden crime and its victims may be especially isolated and hidden from view during the coronavirus outbreak.
Help and support is available for victims of modern slavery. This page sets out what modern slavery is, how to recognise the indicators of modern slavery and how to refer suspected cases of modern slavery to the appropriate services.
What is modern slavery?
Modern slavery comprises slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, and human trafficking. The categories listed below are not exhaustive, but cover the main types documented in the UK.
Usually involves unacceptably low pay, poor working conditions or excessive wage deductions, but is not solely about this. In order to constitute modern slavery, there will also be some form of coercion meaning that victims cannot freely leave for other employment or exercise choice over their own situation.
Victims are coerced into sex work or sexually abusive situations. This includes child sexual exploitation. Victims may be brought to the UK on the promise of legitimate employment or moved around the UK to be sexually exploited. In some cases, they may know they will be involved in sex work but are forced into a type or frequency they did not agree to. Victims are more commonly female but can also be male.
Criminal exploitation is the exploitation of a person to commit a crime for someone else’s gain. For example, victims could be coerced into shoplifting, pickpocketing, entering into a sham marriage, benefit fraud, begging, drug cultivation such as cannabis farming or facilitating the movement of drugs via county lines.
This can include child criminal exploitation (CCE) where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into any criminal activity for any of the following reasons:
- in exchange for something the victim needs or wants
- for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator
- through violence or the threat of violence.
The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. CCE does not always involve physical contact, it can also occur through the use of technology.
Domestic servitude typically involves victims working in a private family home where they are ill-treated, humiliated, subjected to unbearable conditions or working hours or made to work for little or no pay. The victim could be exploited in this way by their own family members or partner. Again, it is very difficult for them to leave, because of, for example, threats, the perpetrator holding their passport, or using a position of power over the victim.
Spot the signs of modern slavery
It can be challenging to identify a potential victim of modern slavery. Potential victims may be reluctant to come forward or may not recognise themselves as victims. Victims may:
- believe that they must work against their will
- be unable to leave their work environment or home environment
- show signs that their movements are being controlled
- feel that they cannot leave
- show fear or anxiety
- be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones
- allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
- not be in possession of their passports or other travel or identity documents, as those documents are being held by someone else
Full details on identifying potential victims of modern slavery and indicators are available in the recently published Home Office modern slavery statutory guidance.
Report modern slavery
You don’t need to be sure that modern slavery is taking place or fully understand the types and definitions to report your concerns.
Call the police
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police - the police will continue to respond to emergency calls.
Call the police on 101 if you suspect modern slavery but there is no immediate risk of harm.
Call CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 if you want to report a modern slavery crime confidentially and anonymously.
National Referral Mechanism
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK’s system for identifying and supporting potential victims of modern slavery. Details of support available through the NRM.
If you are a First Responder, you can refer potential victims to the NRM. First Responders organisations include police, local authorities, UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and specified non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
If you are not a First Responder, you should contact a First Responder organisation, such as the Police on 101. In Northern Ireland, only the statutory bodies mentioned are First Responders.
First Responders in Scotland and Northern Ireland should follow the guidance on the digital referral form. Chapter 5 of the statutory guidance sets out further guidance on the referral process for First Responders in England and Wales.
When the potential victim is a child, the local authority with safeguarding responsibility must be contacted. All victims, including possible or potential victims of modern slavery who are under the age of 18 must be referred to children’s social care urgently under child protection procedures or, in Northern Ireland, to the local health and social care trust.
Support for victims
Adult victims can access a range of support across the UK if they choose to enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). This support can include:
- safe and secure accommodation
- financial support
- physical and psychological medical care
- access to relevant information and legal advice
In England and Wales, local authorities are responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children in their area. Local children’s services will work in close co-operation with the police and other statutory agencies to offer potentially trafficked children the protection and support they require. Unlike adults, potential child victims do not need to consent to being referred into the NRM and a referral should always be made after the child is safeguarded.
Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs) will offer additional support and advice to children who are thought to be victims of modern slavery. The ICTG service is currently available in one third of local authorities in England and Wales in Greater Manchester, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, nationally in Wales, West Midlands Combined Authority, East Midlands and the London Borough of Croydon.
In Northern Ireland, health and social care trusts are responsible for the safeguarding and protection of children. An independent guardian is appointed for all separated and trafficked children and must be involved in the safeguarding process.
In Scotland, support and protection for child victims in Scotland is provided by local authorities through child protection processes and the Getting It Right for Every Child approach to improving outcomes for children and young people. Where a local authority is providing direct care to a child victim, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 remains the primary legislation in determining the provision of accommodation and care services.
The following resources set out full details of the support available and how it can be accessed:
- England and Wales: Chapter 8 (Adults) and Chapter 9 (Children) of the statutory guidance
- Scotland: Information on the provision of support and assistance to adult victims of human trafficking
- Northern Ireland: Information on help and support for victims
For cases of labour exploitation, the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority website provides information on labour exploitation, how to spot the signs and other organisations that might be able to help.
There are online training materials on modern slavery suitable for both police and non-police organisations can be accessed. This site requires visitors to log in.