The UK is the first country in the world to have dedicated legislation in place to tackle modern slavery. The Government has had an ambitious Modern Slavery Strategy in place since 2014.
In 2016 the Prime Minister announced a new Modern Slavery Taskforce, which sits at the centre of Government, to drive further progress in tackling slavery and people trafficking.
To co-ordinate the modern slavery response across Government and ensure accountability for delivering the Modern Slavery Strategy, the Cabinet Office has appointed a Senior Responsible Officer.
In October 2017, we published research that identified 17 distinct types of modern slavery in the UK. The findings will be used to inform our response to preventing modern slavery from taking place.
Action against modern slavery offenders
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 gives law enforcement agencies the tools to tackle modern slavery, including a maximum life sentences for perpetrators and enhanced protection for victims. We are beginning to see the results of this improved law enforcement response. The number of live police operations has increased since the Act became law, from 188 police operations in December 2016 to over 1,370 at present.
More potential victims are being identified and protected due to a greater awareness and improved understanding of modern slavery. In the year to September 2018, 4,270 offences of Modern Slavery were recorded by police. This is a 51% increase compared with the previous year (2,824 offences).
In 2017/18, 239 suspects were charged with modern slavery offences, a 27% rise from the year before. In the same period, referrals to the CPS from the police increased by a third to 355, the highest ever recorded and a total of 185 modern slavery and human trafficking convictions were secured.
Preventing modern slavery in supply chains
We have world-leading measures such as the requirement for businesses with over £36m turnover to comply with Transparency in Supply Chains legislation (TISC).
As a result of this landmark legislation many companies are taking concrete action to address the risks of modern slavery and improve the lives of vulnerable workers in their operations and global supply chains.
However, while thousands are taking their responsibilities serious there are still too many that have published poor quality statements or are failing to fulfil the basic legal requirements. That’s why we have written to chief executives of 17,000 businesses about their obligations and made it clear that there are no excuses for non-compliance.
The Home Office is conducting an audit and following this non-compliant companies risk being publicly named.
The Government will be publishing its own transparency statement later this year. In March 2019, the Government, in partnership with the Ethical Trading Initiative and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, hosted an international conference on addressing modern slavery in public procurement.
We are working in partnership with business to accelerate progress and help smaller businesses take action, through the Government’s Business Against Slavery Forum, chaired by the Home Secretary. CEOs from a range of multinational organisations work with the Government to share experiences and galvanise action on this issue.
National Referral Mechanism (NRM)
We have recently announced reforms to the National Referral Mechanism which will make substantial improvements to a system which is supporting more victims than every before. Decisions will be made in a more efficient and streamlined way, and additional independent scrutiny will ensure quality decision-making.
These reforms will also ensure the NRM helps support victims to leave situations of exploitation and enables them to begin to recover and rebuild their lives. The Government is introducing minimum standards of care for victims and piloting new approaches with six local authority areas to identify best practice in supporting victims to move out of NRM support and link up with local services. and a longer period of support when victims leave the NRM, so they can build lives free from exploitation and vulnerability.
We consulted extensively with key partners on the reforms to the NRM – including charities, police, law enforcement and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
Independent Child Trafficking Advocates
The Government recognises the particular vulnerabilities of child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking. This vulnerable group of children are entitled to support and assistance and require tailored support which addresses their specific needs and vulnerabilities.
To address this, the Government announced an ambitious package of reforms to the NRM. This included introducing Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs), an independent source of advice for trafficked children and somebody who can speak up on their behalf.
The Government has reaffirmed its committed to rolling ICTAs out nationally. To ensure the correct ICTA model is rolled out, a staggered approach has been adopted with built-in assessments along the way. Currently ICTAs have been expanded to one third of local authorities in England and Wales.
The ICTA service provides ICTA direct workers for children for whom there is no one with parental responsibility for them in the UK and ICTA regional co-ordinators whose role is to focus on children for whom there is someone with parental responsibility for them in the UK.
In summer 2019, the Home Office in conjunction with the University of Bedfordshire are due to publish a further assessment on the ICTA service and will provide analysis on implementation of the service in early adopter sites, how the ICTA service works alongside existing service provision, how this is different for different groups of children and the outcomes for children who had an ICTA, including the outcomes for different groups of children.
The Government is currently carefully considering the recommendations for the national rollout of ICTAs which have been made by the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act.
Government funding to tackle modern slavery in the UK and overseas
The UK has made fighting modern slavery a top foreign policy priority. The Prime Minister’s global Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking by 2030 now has over 88 endorsements and significant steps have been taken to step up global efforts against modern slavery.
We are strengthening cooperation with countries from where victims are regularly trafficked to the UK, and we are leading global change through multilateral organisations such as the Commonwealth and UN.
Our efforts are supported by a £200 million UK Aid commitment, which is helping to catch offenders, support victims and prevent people falling into exploitation. This includes the Modern Slavery Innovation Fund, which supports overseas projects to trial innovative ways of stopping modern slavery.
Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner
In May 2019, Sara Thornton formally started her role as the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, following her appointment by the Home Secretary.
The Commissioner’s role is to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of modern slavery and the identification of victims.