1.The Home Office has no means of monitoring progress or knowing if its Modern Slavery Strategy is working and achieving value for money. When it introduced the Modern Slavery Strategy in 2014, the Home Office’s (the Department’s) objective was to reduce significantly the prevalence of modern slavery. Yet its only estimate of the prevalence of modern slavery dates back to 2013 and it has not attempted to estimate prevalence since then. The Department did not set up its modern slavery activities as a coherent programme with an all-encompassing governance structure. It has not set measures or targets for what success looks like for the strategy across the system, or identified clear roles and responsibilities for all organisations involved. Nor does the Department know how much money is spent across government on tackling modern slavery, so it cannot prioritise where funding is spent or assess how effective different elements of its strategy are. It needs to learn from other programmes such as tackling domestic violence where improved referral processes have led to increased instances of reporting and police intervention.
Recommendation: In order to effectively track whether its Modern Slavery Strategy is working and prioritise funding and activities, the Department should set targets, actions, a means of tracking resources, and clear roles and responsibilities within the programme and report back to us by December 2018.
2.There are gaps in Department’s understanding of modern slavery in the UK which could impact on prevention work. Progress in understanding the crime has been slow since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Strategy. However, modern slavery has been a priority for intelligence-gathering since November 2016. Government has established the Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre (JSTAC), a multi-agency strategic intelligence centre, and published a typology of modern slavery report. The National Crime Agency’s understanding of victims and their countries of origin is improving as a result but the landscape continues to evolve and all the agencies involved must make certain they understand the changing make up of victims to aid them in prevention work.
Recommendation: The Deparment should continue its work to gain a better understanding of the crime, the victims and the perpetrators, in order to target its prevention work effectively. It must take account of the potential impact of other factors such as the exit from the EU.
3.The Department’s hands-off approach to businesses’ compliance with its transparency in supply chains legislation is not working. The Department introduced a requirement as part of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 for businesses with an annual turnover of more than £36 million to publish a statement setting out the steps they have taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place in their businesses or supply chains. The Department does not have a list of the businesses that the requirement applies to or know how many have produced a statement. It does not monitor whether statements comply with the legislation and has never used its powers to penalise companies that do not comply. This is important to develop prevention mechanisms within supply chains before someone is trafficked. Instead, the Department relies on NGOs, investors and consumers to monitor compliance, including two NGO managed registries of statements. This approach is clearly not working, as compliance with the legislation is low, with only an estimated 30% of businesses required to publish a statement having done so. Even for those companies that have produced a statement there is a risk that it is merely a tick-box exercise.
Recommendation: The Department should take immediate action to ensure that its Transparency in Supply Chains legislation is more effective. It needs to drive up compliance, by actively administering and monitoring compliance and should write to us by April 2019 setting out what progress it has made and its latest estimate of compliance and demonstrating how this is improving transparency. The Department should consider publishing itself a list of companies who have complied and not complied with the legislation, rather than relying on NGOs to police the system.
4.Reform of the National Referral Mechanism has taken too long and the current system does not allow government to understand and deal with modern slavery effectively. The Department reviewed the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2014 and found it was inefficient and needed to be redesigned. However, over three years later it has not yet implemented any changes to improve the process. The NRM process is inefficient, which leads to long waits for the victims. The system does not enable the Department to analyse the data it contains to better understand modern slavery as a crime; for example, it is not able to undertake analysis to understand the businesses and sectors where prevalence of modern slavery is highest in order to identify where to focus its attention and develop prevention strategies. The NRM does not capture what happens to victims after they leave the NRM, and so the Department does not know whether victims have been re-trafficked. The Department is currently digitising the NRM and expects the new system to be fully functional by January 2019.
Recommendation: By January 2019 the Department should ensure that the reformed NRM system enables it to collect and analyse data to understand the crime, the businesses and the sectors where prevalence is highest, and, where victims consent, to understand what happens to victims after they leave the NRM.
5.We are very concerned that victims are waiting far too long to receive National Referral Mechanism decisions, causing distress and anxiety to vulnerable people, and increasing the costs of the victim care contract. The Department does not have a target for when it will make a final (conclusive grounds) decision on NRM referrals, although it states that a decision will be made as soon as possible after the 45-day period in which victims are entitled to receive support after they have received an initial (reasonable grounds) decision. The average length of time for adult conclusive grounds decisions was 134 days in 2016. Potential victims are therefore waiting far too long to receive a decision, causing distress and anxiety to vulnerable people. As the Department cannot enact a negative asylum decision until it has made an NRM decision, this also causes delays for potential victims who have made asylum applications. Delays in NRM decision making have also increased the cost of the Department’s victim care contract with the Salvation Army, because support is being provided for much longer than the Department assumed would be necessary when letting the contract. The Department now estimates that the cost of the five year contract to 2020 will be around £90 million, more than double its early estimates. The Department acknowledges that the lack of targets for conclusive decisions is “deeply unhelpful and damaging”, and intends to establish targets as part of its NRM reforms.
Recommendation: Within six months, the Department should write to us setting out what actions the competent authorities are taking to reduce the time potential victims wait for a decision, and how the reformed NRM will reduce decision making times further, including what the target time for a conclusive decision will be.
6.In the absence of clear care standards and an inspection regime, the Department has no way of knowing that victims are receiving adequate care. Adult potential victims of modern slavery who have been referred to the NRM are entitled to receive support through the victim care contract, which is currently delivered by the Salvation Army and its twelve subcontractors. The Department has not put in place any care standards or a robust inspection regime to check the quality of care and support provided in safe houses. In October 2017 the Department announced it would adopt the Human Trafficking Foundation care standards which were developed in 2014, but these will not be in place until the new care contract is let in 2020. The Department relies on the Salvation Army to escalate any concerns and therefore has insufficient direct assurance about standards of care.
Recommendation: The Department should, as a matter of urgency, put in place care standards for the current victim care contract. It should also contract for, or put in place itself, an inspection regime to ensure that all care reaches these standards.
7.The extreme variation between police forces’ referral rates suggests that some forces are not treating modern slavery as seriously as others. The three police forces with the highest number of adult referrals of potential victims have made more than 900 referrals since the NRM began in 2009, while six police forces have made fewer than 10 referrals each in the same period. The variation in police reporting of modern slavery crimes is more acute than for other types of crime. Only 6% of the crimes recorded in the year to March 2017 led to summonses or charges, and while prosecution rates have increased in the last year they are still low. Improving police forces’ response to modern slavery requires better management and awareness amongst forces and other stakeholders. The Department is currently spending £8.5 million from the Police Transformation Fund to improve police forces’ response to modern slavery, but there is a risk of a ‘cliff edge’ effect when this funding comes to an end in April 2019. It is not yet clear how Brexit will affect the law enforcement response to tackling modern slavery.
Recommendation: The Department needs to work with the National Crime Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Police and Crime Commissioners, local police forces and local authorities to urgently develop a set of clear, practical steps and good practice guidance to understand why there are regional variations in tackling the issue and how these can be reduced.
Published: 2 May 2018