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Modern Slavery Statutory Guidance (Home Office)

Modern Slavery Training Resource Page (Home Office) 

Modern Slavery Resources (Home Office)

October 2022: This chapter has been rewritten to reflect the latest version of the Modern Slavery Statutory Guidance, published by the Home Office.

1. Introduction: What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is a serious and often hidden crime in which people are exploited for criminal gain. It includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

The common factors are that a victim is, or is intended to be, used or exploited for someone else’s (usually financial) gain, without respecting their human rights. The perpetrators of modern slavery can be private individuals, people running small businesses or part of a wider organised crime network.

Adult victims will usually be coerced into modern slavery, through the use of threats, force, deception, or an abuse of power. However, vulnerable adults (and children) are not able to give informed consent and therefore exploitation even without any coercion could still be modern slavery.

The scale of modern slavery in the UK is significant. Modern slavery crimes are being committed throughout the country and there has been year on year increases in the number of victims identified. In 2021, the Home Office received 3,190 reports of adult potential victims via the Duty to Refer process (see Section 5, National Referral Mechanism and the Duty to Refer) compared to 2,175 in 2020. The most commonly referred nationalities in 2021 were Albanian (14%), Eritrean (12%) and UK (11%).

Modern slavery can be difficult to spot and often goes unreported. Staff working in health, local authorities and any other role which comes into contact with the public could potentially see signs of modern slavery. Staff should be trained to:

  • understand the signs or indicators of modern slavery;
  • know how to take appropriate action; and
  • provide possible victims with protection and support, based upon their individual needs. It is essential that professionals recognise that survivors of modern slavery may be at risk of re-trafficking and further harm and take action to prevent this.

Multi-agency working is vital to ensure that victims are identified, protected and safeguarded.

Modern slavery is an adult safeguarding concern, and the local authority has legal duties to provide support for suspected or known victims. Under UK law, all modern slavery offences are punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. For modern slavery concerns regarding children, please see the LLR Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures.

2. Types of Modern Slavery

Modern slavery comprises the following:

  • human trafficking;
  • slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

2.1 Human trafficking

Human trafficking is where a victim is coerced or deceived into a situation where they are then exploited. Article 4(a) of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings defines ‘human trafficking’ as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Human trafficking involves three basic elements:

  1. action;
  2. means; and
  3. purpose of exploitation.

It should be seen as a process involving a number of connected actions rather than a single act at a particular point in time, as noted in the table below:

Elements of human trafficking adults What this means
Action recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt, which includes an element of movement whether national or cross-border;
Means threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability;
Exploitation for example, sexual exploitation, forced labour or domestic servitude, slavery, financial exploitation, removal of organs (see below for more detail)

(Taken from Modern slavery statutory guidance: how to identify and support victims, Home Office)

To be considered as human trafficking, a victim must be trafficked for the purposes of exploitation. This can take the form of:

  • sexual exploitation: in most cases of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation victims will be female, but there are also male victims. Rape and violence are commonplace, and victims are often tricked and given false promises of good jobs and economic opportunities;
  • forced or compulsory labour: victims have to work for little or no pay in poor conditions, and they cannot freely leave for other employment. If they are foreign nationals, their passports may be confiscated by their exploiters so they cannot return home. They may also be forced to live in terrible conditions. Forced labour can take place in any sector of the labour market, including manufacturing, food processing, agriculture, hospitality, nail bars and hand car washes;
  • forced criminality / criminal exploitation: victims are forced to commit illegal activities, including pick pocketing, shop lifting, begging, cannabis cultivation, exploitation across county lines, benefit fraud, sham marriage and other activities. The Modern Slavery Act provides for a defence for victims who have been forced into criminality, so victims should not be prosecuted;
  • removal of organs: victims are trafficked for their internal organs (typically kidneys or the liver) to be taken (‘harvested’) to be transplanted in other people (who usually pay for the new organs);
  • domestic servitude: victims work in a household where they may be ill-treated, humiliated, subjected to long and tiring hours, forced to work and live in very difficult conditions or forced to work for little or no pay. Sometimes, being a victim of forced marriage can lead to domestic servitude.

2.2 Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour

As well as trafficking, modern slavery also covers cases of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Some people may not be victims of human trafficking but are still victims of modern slavery.

Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour are illegal across the UK.

For a person to be a victim of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour there must have been:

  • means (being held, either physically or through threat – for example, threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability);
  • service (a person has to have provided a service for the benefit of others – for example, begging, sexual services, manual labour, domestic service).

3. Identifying Victims

It can be difficult to identify victims of modern slavery; they are often reluctant to come forward, may not recognise themselves as victims or, because they are scared, they may tell their stories with obvious errors or omissions.

Some adults are more susceptible to becoming victims of modern slavery, including:

  • young men and women;
  • pregnant women;
  • former victims of modern slavery including people who do not consent to enter the National Referral Mechanism (see Section 5), who may be at risk of being re-trafficked;
  • people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless;
  • people with drug and alcohol dependency issues;
  • people with underlying health factors such as learning difficulties, disability, communication difficulties, chronic developmental or mental health disorders;
  • people who have previously experienced abuse;
  • people in particularly deprived / poor areas where there are few employment opportunities are more likely to be recruited by traffickers pretending to be recruitment agencies / genuine employers;
  • people struggling with debt;
  • people who have lost family or suffered family breakdown or have limited support networks;
  • people with criminal records who employers may not want to take on;
  • illegal immigrants with no source of income and other people without an immigration status that enables them to legally work;
  • older people who are lonely and do not have much money;
  • people who speak no or very little English and / or cannot read or write in their own language;
  • overseas domestic workers.

3.1 Signs to look out for

Victims of modern slavery can be found anywhere. However, there are certain industries where they are more likely to be found such as nail bars, car washes, food processing factories, domestic service, farming and fishing, building sites and the sex industry.

The Modern Slavery statutory guidance (Home Office) provides the following indicators:

3.1.1 General Indicators

Victims may:
Believe that they must work against their will Have false identity or travel documents for example a passport (or none at all)
Be unable to leave their work or home environment Be found in or connected to a type of location or venue likely to be used for exploiting people
Show signs that their movements are being controlled / feel that they cannot leave Be unfamiliar with the local language
Be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones Not know their home or work address
Show fear or anxiety Allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
Have injuries that appear to be the result of an assault Be forced, threatened or deceived into working in poor conditions
Not be allowed to have the money they have earned Be disciplined / controlled through punishment
Be distrustful of the authorities Receive little or no payment
 Be afraid of telling anyone their immigration status Work very long hours over long periods
Come from a place where human trafficking victims are known to come from Live in poor or substandard accommodations
Have had the fees for their transport to the country of destination paid for by organisers of human trafficking, who they must pay back by working or providing services Have no access to medical care
Have no or not much contact with other people Only be allowed to have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
Be unable to speak freely with others Believe that they are must work until they have paid off the debt they are told they owe
Be dependent on their ‘bosses’ / facilitators Have believe the false promises of their bosses / facilitators.

3.1.2 Physical indicators

  • Physical injuries – with unclear explanations as to how or when they got the injuries or which are not treated, or only partly treated, or there may be lots of – or unusual – scars or broken bones which have healed.
  • Work related injuries – often through poor personal protective equipment and health and safety arrangements.
  • Physical consequences of living in captivity, neglect or poor environmental conditions – for example, infections including tuberculosis (TB), chest infections or skin infections, malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies or anaemia.
  • Dental problems – from physical abuse and / or not being able to see a dentist.
  • Worsening of existing long term medical conditions – these may be untreated (or poorly treated) conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Being disfigured – cutting, burning, or branding skin may be used as punishment or to show ownership by exploiters.
  • Pain after a surgical operation – infection or scarring from organ harvesting, particularly of a kidney.

3.1.3 Psychological indicators

  • Expression – of fear or anxiety.
  • Depression – lack of interest in getting involved in activities, lack of interest in socialising with other people, hopelessness.
  • Attachment and identity issues – can become detached from other people or become over-dependent (or both). This can include being dependent on exploiters.
  • Unable to control emotions – for example often fluctuating between sadness, forgiveness, anger, aggression, frustration and / or emotional detachment or emotional withdrawal.
  • Difficulties with relationships – difficulties trusting others (either lack of trust or too trusting) which causes difficulties in relationships and difficulties assessing or addressing risks or warning signs in relationships.
  • Loss of independence – for example difficulty in making simple decisions, tendency to complying to the views / desires of others.

 3.1.4 Situational and environmental indicators

  • Exploiters keep passports or identity documents, contracts, payslips, bank information, health records.
  • Having a lack of information about their rights as a visitor in the UK or a lack of knowledge about the area they live in the UK.
  • Acting as if they are being coerced or controlled by another person.
  • Going missing for periods.
  • Being fearful and emotional about their family or dependents.
  • Having limited spoken English, for example only being able to talk about their exploitative situation and not being able to have any other type of conversation.
  • Limited in where they can go (victims are not often ‘locked up’ but their ability to move around can be restricted) or being held in isolation.
  • Withholding their wages (including deductions from wages).
  • Debt bondage.
  • Abusive working and / or living conditions, including having to work excessive amounts of overtime.

3.2 Impact on victims

Victims of modern slavery are forced, threatened or deceived into situations of humiliation and control which undermine their personal identity and sense of self. The impact of these experiences can be devastating.

It is important for all professionals to understand the specific vulnerability of victims of modern slavery and use practical, trauma-informed methods of working which are based upon basic principles of dignity, compassion and respect. Victim’s voices must always be heard, and their rights respected.

4. Reporting Concerns

4.1 Taking action

Any worker who has concerns about someone who they think may be a victim of modern slavery should follow their organisation’s own safeguarding adults procedures. Staff do not have to be certain that modern slavery is taken place before reporting concerns. The safety, protection and support of the potential victim must also be the first priority. They may need emergency medical care. Only use an independent interpreter, not any other adults with the potential victims as they may (unknown to the member of staff) be associated with the exploiters and therefore may not tell the truth about the person’s situation.

4.1.1 Immediate risk of harm

If it is suspected that someone is in immediate danger, the police should be contacted on 999.

4.1.2 No immediate risk of harm

There are a number of options that can be taken:

  • the police can be contacted on 101;
  • the Modern Slavery helpline can be contacted: 0800 0121 700.

4.1.3 Adult Social Care

Victims of modern slavery are often adults who are at risk of, or who are experiencing, abuse or neglect, particularly when they have been rescued from a situation of exploitation. In this instance, local authority adult social care should be informed as soon as possible to identify whether a Section 42 (safeguarding) enquiry is required. A safeguarding referral to a local authority should be done with the cooperation of the adult victim, taking into account their needs and wishes.

Even where an adult has been removed from a harmful situation, they can be at risk of re-victimisation. Even if there is no immediate risk relating to safety or the person’s welfare, it is important to discuss any concerns with your designated safeguarding lead or local authority Safeguarding Adults Team (see Local Contacts) and follow these safeguarding adult policies and procedures (see Safeguarding Enquiries section).

4.2 Seeking advice

Advice about what action to take can be sought from your organisation’s designated safeguarding adults lead, the local authority’s safeguarding adults team, the local police public protection unit (contactable via the police switchboard) or the Modern Slavery Helpline.

5. National Referral Mechanism and the Duty to Refer

For further guidance and the online referral forms see:

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) provides a framework for identifying and referring potential modern slavery victims and ensuring they receive appropriate support.

Support for adult victims may include:

  • access to legal aid for immigration advice;
  • access to short-term Government-funded support through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract (accommodation, material assistance, translation and interpretation services, counselling, advice, etc.);
  • outreach support if already in local authority accommodation or asylum accommodation;
  • assistance to return to their home country if not a UK national.

5.1 Referral or duty to notify

An online referral system is used for making referrals into the NRM and also for Duty to Notify (DtN) referrals.

Referrals into the NRM can only be made by staff who work for designated ‘first responder’ organisation (see Appendix 1 below).

Whether a DtN referral or referral into the NRM is made depends on the consent of the adult victim.

For an adult to be referred to the NRM, they must provide informed consent. This means they should understand what the NRM is, what support it can provide, and what the possible outcomes are for if they are referred.

It should be presumed that an individual has the mental capacity to make a decision about whether to consent to entering the NRM.

When there may be concern about a person’s mental capacity to independently make a decision about whether or not to consent to entering the NRM, steps should be taken to try to support the individual to make the decision. Where an individual does not have the capacity to consent, a best interests decision should be taken. Before a decision is taken in the best interests of an individual, it is vital to consult with any other agencies involved in the care and support of the individual (see Mental Capacity chapter).

If the adult does not consent to a NRM referral, a DtN referral should always still be made, using the online referral form.

5.2 Support for potential victims who do not consent

Adult potential victims who choose not to enter the NRM may still be eligible for other state support. A victim who does not enter the NRM may still be:

  • in immediate risk of harm, in which case the police should be contacted by calling 999;
  • eligible for housing support through the local authority or be eligible for other support from the state where they have recourse to public funds;
  • eligible to make a claim for asylum or another type of immigration status or stay in asylum support if they have an active claim (where the person does not have the right to reside in the UK);
  • able to receive emergency medical care;
  • at risk of further exploitation, see Section 4.1.3, Adult Social Care.

Appendix 1: NRM First Responder Organisations and Responsibilities

In England and Wales, a ‘first responder organisation’ is an authority that is authorised to refer a potential victim of modern slavery into the National Referral Mechanism. The current statutory and non-statutory first responder organisations are:

  • police forces;
  • certain parts of the Home Office; UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and National Crime Agency;
  • local authorities;
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA);
  • Salvation Army;
  • Migrant Help;
  • Medaille Trust;
  • Kalayaan;
  • Barnardo’s;
  • Unseen;
  • BAWSO;
  • New Pathways;
  • Refugee Council.

First responder organisations have the following responsibilities; it is for the organisation to decide how it will discharge these responsibilities:

  • identify potential victims of modern slavery and recognise the indicators of modern slavery;
  • gather information in order to understand what has happened to them refer victims into the NRM via the online process (in England and Wales this includes notifying the Home Office if an adult victim doesn’t consent to being referred – DtN);
  • provide a point of contact for the competent authority to assist with the reasonable and conclusive grounds decisions and to request a reconsideration where a first responder believes it is appropriate to do so.