Modern slavery

Modern slavery can affect anyone, regardless of age and gender, with research suggesting that at least a third of victims are male and a quarter of victims are children.

Modern slavery is mostly a hidden crime, and to get a true picture of prevalence is very challenging. Modern slavery is seen as an umbrella term and can include:

  • human trafficking
  • sexual exploitation
  • criminal exploitation
  • forced labour
  • domestic servitude

Identified potential victims in 2016 were from 108 different nationalities.  The 2016 statistics also identify that children made up around a third of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism.  For children the most common form of exploitation was labour exploitation, particularly cannabis cultivation.

More information such as survivor stories can be found at

Definition of modern slavery

Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain.  Victims are trapped in servitude, which they are deceived and coerced into, and feel they cannot leave.

HM Government (2014)

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What to look for ...

  • situations where you do not know who holds parental responsibility (see also private fostering);
  • children not attending school;
  • unbelievable or surprising accounts of how they are in the country;
  • intimidation of people at risk;
  • parents working without pay;
  • children being involved in inappropriate work;
  • injuries;
  • tattoos or other marks indicating ‘ownership’;
  • distrust of authority.
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Potential indicators

Potential victims of modern slavery may:

  • be reluctant to come forward with information
  • not recognise themselves as having been trafficked or enslaved
  • tell their stories with obvious errors.

It is not uncommon for traffickers or modern slavery facilitators to provide stories for victims to tell if approached by the authorities. Errors or lack of reality may be because their initial stories are composed by others and learnt.

Other indicators may include those relating to physical health, sexual health and emotional health, with these being broadly similar to those relating to general safeguarding concerns.

what to do

  • refer to children’s services or the police as a ‘first responder’;
  • ensure they follow the National Referral Mechanism to assess whether there are grounds to suspect modern slavery;
  • Follow your safeguarding procedures in relation to any other risks.
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  • Victims of modern slavery – frontline staff guidance

    Developed for front line Home Office staff, this guidance gives information to help identify and help potential victims of modern slavery (including human trafficking) in England and Wales.

  • Modern slavery awareness & victim identification guidance

    Modern slavery is happening in the UK today, but the crime can be difficult to spot and go unreported. This guidance is intended as a resource providing clear and up to date information on the key facts, and to help public sector workers who may not routinely come across modern slavery recognise the signs and respond so that more victims get help and perpetrators are brought to justice.

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