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Modern slavery

Across the UK, modern slavery has increased significantly in recent years and is a growing safeguarding concern for all councils due to its seriousness and impact in which people are exploited.

Today slavery refers to someone being exploited and completely controlled by someone else, without being able to leave. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment. This can include sexual and criminal exploitation.

What is modern slavery?

Someone is in slavery if they are: 

  • forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat
  • owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  • dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’
  • physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.

Victims may be unwilling to come forward to law enforcement or public protection agencies, indeed, not seeing themselves as victims, or fearing further reprisals from their abusers. Victims may also not always be recognised as such, by others who come into contact with them which is why recognising the signs and reporting concerns is so important.

What is the scale of the problem in the UK?

According to the Government’s UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery published October 2018 the most robust estimate to date of the scale of modern slavery in the UK was produced by the Home Office in 2014. The estimate suggested that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) assesses that the actual scale of modern slavery in the UK is gradually increasing and, if drivers remain at their current levels, will continue to do so over the next 3 years.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was enacted March 2015 which;

  • makes prosecuting the traffickers easier by consolidating the existing slavery offences
  • increases sentences for slavery offences
  • bans prosecuting victims of slavery for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers, such as drug production or petty thefts
  • introduces child trafficking advocates to better protect trafficked children
  • makes big UK businesses publicly report on how they tackle slavery in their global supply chains
  • establishes an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to overlook the UK’s policies to tackle slavery.

Our response to modern slavery

We are actively involved in tackling modern slavery in a number of ways including signing up to the Co-operative Party's Charter Against Modern Slavery.

This Charter goes further than existing law and guidance, committing councils to proactively vetting their own supply chain to ensure no instances of modern slavery are taking place. The decision to sign the Charter was taken as a result of a Motion presented to the 29 November 2018 Council meeting ensuring our procurement practices do not support slavery.

We are an active partner in the County Modern Slavery Partnership and key staff have been trained by the external organisation Hope for Justice.