Victims of modern slavery Contents

1The great human rights issue of our time

1.The Prime Minister has described modern slavery as “the great human rights issue of our time”.1 It is a crime where individuals are exploited for little or no pay through force, threat or deception. Exploitation can include, but is not limited to, domestic servitude, forced or compulsory labour, sexual exploitation and the removal of organs.2 Victims, including men, women and children, have often endured traumatic experiences and suffer from mental and physical health problems.3

2.Modern slavery is a hidden crime and its scale is difficult to assess. In 2013, the Government estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims in the UK.4 Those victims originate from around 100 different countries,5 with Romania, Poland, Albania, Nigeria and the UK itself the five most common countries of origin.6 In 2015, 3,266 potential victims were identified and referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM—the UK’s framework for potential victims of modern slavery to be identified and referred for appropriate support). Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism (the Home Office Minister), told us there was a “big gap” between the estimated prevalence of modern slavery and the number of people officially identified as victims.7

The Modern Slavery Act

3.In 2015, the Government passed the Modern Slavery Act, the first of its kind in the world.8 This followed extensive scrutiny, including an evidence review and scrutiny of a draft bill by a Joint Committee. The Bill consolidated existing offences of slavery and human trafficking. It also increased the penalties for these offences, provided for new preventative orders,9 and created new maritime enforcement powers. Following recommendations by the Joint Committee, the Bill also introduced measures to support and protect victims, and required reporting by large businesses of what steps they have taken to ensure slavery is absent from supply chains.10

4.The Act also created the role of the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner.11 The Commissioner is tasked with promoting good practice and driving improvements to the UK and global response to modern slavery crimes. In April 2016, the current Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, wrote to us regarding the support and protection given to victims of modern slavery.12 He told us he was particularly concerned about the treatment of victims from the European Economic Area (EEA). Once they were recognised as victims of modern slavery, such people were at “high risk of becoming destitute and homeless” because of their very limited access to welfare.13 We wrote to the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb MP, to request clarification on the status of recognised victims and the support offered by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). His response set out the limited support available, and confirmed that being a victim of modern slavery conferred no additional access to benefits compared to other EEA nationals.14 We subsequently launched this inquiry.

5.Our inquiry looked at the DWP support available to victims following a Conclusive Grounds decision (CG), a decision that officially recognises that someone is a victim of modern slavery.15 This inevitably meant scrutinising the work of the Home Office as it related to victim support and affected DWP policy. This inquiry has also identified areas which require further scrutiny but were outside the scope of this report, such as the lack of legal advice for potential victims prior to their referral to the NRM and the absence of an appeals process. A review of the NRM is underway and a new system has been trialled. Proposals for reform would benefit from parliamentary scrutiny and we will refer our evidence to the Home Affairs Committee (see paragraphs 13 to 16).

6.On 22 March 2017, the Prime Minister wrote to us emphasising that ending modern slavery is a top priority for her Government and that she was grateful for our work on how victim support could be improved.16 She also said that the Government was committed to doing “everything we can to support victims of modern slavery and to bring the perpetrators of this barbaric crime to justice”.17 Our recommendations, and the evidence that informed them, highlight where improvements to victim support can and should be made.

7.In her reply to a Committee letter, inviting the Prime Minister to come and discuss the follow-through to her legislative achievement, the Prime Minister replied that she would do so once our report was published. We look forward to this meeting, which is yet a further sign of a commitment to driving forward the government’s countering modern slavery strategy.18

8.We would like to thank everyone who gave evidence to this inquiry. In particular we would like to thank the four individuals who spoke to us about their experience of being victims of modern slavery. This took extraordinary courage and was invaluable to our work.


1 Defeating modern slavery: article by Theresa May, July 2016. Available on Gov.uk

2 Modern Slavery Act 2015, Section 3 ‘Meaning of Exploitation’

3 Helen Bamber Foundation and Kings College and Samantha Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, former first responder, (VMS0014)

4 Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office (VMS0023)

5 Q167 (Sarah Newton)

6 Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Strategic Plan 2015–2017, October 2015 and Follow-up letter from Sarah Newton

7 Q157 (Sarah Newton)

8 Q106 (Baroness Butler-Sloss)

9 The Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order and the Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order. These orders enable the court to impose both restrictions and positive requirements upon those convicted of a relevant offence.

10 Commons Library Briefing paper 07656, Modern Slavery Act: Recent developments, July 2016

11 Modern Slavery Act 2015, Sections 40 and 41.

12 Letter from Kevin Hyland OBE, appended to correspondence to Stephen Crabb MP, April 2016

13 Ibid

15 A stage in the NRM process: A positive “Conclusive Grounds” decision means that the State has conclusively determined that an individual is a victim of trafficking and/or modern slavery.

17 Ibid

18 Ibid




27 April 2017