Human trafficking, as defined in the UN Protocol on trafficking adopted in 2000, is the acquisition of a person, by means of decption or coercion, for the purposes of exploitation. Human trafficking, or modern day slavery, as it is often referred to, is a crime and safeguarding issue affecting millions across the world and in the United Kingdom. Trafficking can be better understood by reference to the AMP (Action, Means, and Purpose) Model from the Polaris Project.
The British Government estimates that there are around 13000 people in modern day slavery in the UK, a significant number of which are under 18. Nearly 1000 children were referred to British authorities as potential victims of slavery in 2015, a 40% increase on 2014. Legislation was introduced in July 2015 in the form of The Modern Slavery Act, under which the maximum custodial sentence for the most serious offences is life. The legislation created the post of Anti-Slavery commissioner and placed a duty to notify on specified public authorities, including local authorities to report potential victims of trafficking to the National Crime Agency via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Read the Government guidance on the duty here.
Changes in relation to Modern Slavery are part of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which came into effect on 1 February 2023. The Home Office published updated Statutory Guidance on 31 January 2023.
Types of Modern Day Slavery
Examples of industries and services where slavery exist in the UK today, the victims of which include children and young people are:
- Sex industry, including brothels;
- Retail – e.g. nail bars, hand car washes
- Factories – e.g. food packing
- Hospitality – e.g. fast-food outlets
- Agriculture – e.g. fruit picking
- Domestic labour – e.g. cooking, cleaning and child minding
- Drugs industry – e.g. cannabis cultivation
Additionally, victims can be forced into criminal activities such as theft or begging or used for organ harvesting. For more information specifically on the different types of modern slavery offences, see the Home Office Report – A typology of modern slavery: offences in the UK, published in October 2017.
Who can be affected?
It is an issue that transcends age, gender and ethnicities. It can include victims that have been brought to the UK from overseas or vulnerable people in the UK being forced illegally work against their will. Children and young people have an increased vulnerability to slavery.
Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, and war are some of the situations that contribute to trafficking of victims and slavery.
Slavery can be linked to a number of safeguarding issues, including child sexual exploitation, but normally includes at least one of the following specific situations:
- Child trafficking – young people being moved internationally or domestically so that they can be exploited.
- Forced labour – victims are forced to work through physical or mental threat, against their will, often very long hours for little or no pay, in conditions that can affect their physical and mental health. They are often subjected to verbal or physical threats of violence against them as individuals or their families.
- Debt bondage – victims forced to work to pay off debts that they will never be able to. Debts can be passed down to children. Extreme examples include where a victim may be owned or controlled by an ‘employer’ or sold as a commodity.
Signs and Indicators
Possible signs and indicators that someone is a victim of modern slavery that anyone working with children and young people should be aware of include:
- Physical appearance – poor physical condition, malnourishment, untreated injuries, and looking neglected.
- Isolation – victims may not be allowed out on their own and may appear to be under the control or influence of people accompanying them, with the absence of a parent or legal guardian. They may not interact and be unfamiliar in their local community.
- Poor living conditions – victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, with multiple children living and working at the same address/premises.
- Personal belongings – few possessions, wearing the same clothes each day, and no identification documents.
- Restricted Freedom – victims have little opportunity to move freely and may be kept from having access to their passport.
- Unusual travel times – victims may be dropped off or collected from work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.
- Reluctant to seek help – victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to approach people and have lack of trust or concern about making a report should they be deportation or fear of violence on their family.
The property of where a victim of modern slavery may be held could feature bars on the windows, reflective film or coating applied to the glass or permanently closed curtains. The entrance may have CCTV, multiple locks and have a sealed letterbox to prevent use. There may be evidence of services e.g. electricity being sourced from neighbouring premises or directly from power lines.
Agencies working with children and young people in Redbridge, along with adults that may be vulnerable to trafficking, are participating in a Task and Finish Group which will produce local guidance, and pathways for referrals. It will also be implementing a plan that will led to improved identification of potential victims. For information on the Task and Finish Group, contact Community Safety via 020 8708 5358.
In the meantime, see the guidance below on what action should be taken if you feel someone has been trafficked or may be at risk of being trafficked, either within the UK or overseas.
Modern slavery is listed as a category of abuse within the Care Act 2014 and is treated as a child protection issue, requiring a safeguarding response due to the risk and trauma suffered by victims. If you suspect that a child or young person may be a victim, contact the Redbridge Child Protection and Assessment Team (CPAT) on 020 8708 3885 (or 020 8708 5897 after 17:00 and at weekends). A trafficked child is considered as Level 4 in the Redbridge SCP Multi-Agency Thresholds Document – children with acute needs, at risk of significant harm. The Local Authority will then make a referral to the NRM. You can additionally make a report to the Modern Slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or by completing an on-line form. If you believe that a child or young person is in immediate danger, contact the police by calling 999. For more information, view the Local Authority flow chart relating to the referral process for victims or those at risk under the age of 18.
- Redbridge Suspected Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Initial Referral Process – Under 18 (2018) (PDF 354KB)
Where the age of a potential victim is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that the person is a child, they will be presumed to be a child and receive immediate access to protection, support, accommodation and advice, as stipulated by section 51(2) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
- Modern Slavery Act 2015
- Modern Slavery Briefing, HM Government, 2014
- Victims of modern slavery – frontline staff guidance, Home Office, March 2016
- Report to Parliament from the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, October 2016
- Modern Slavery – How Britain is leading the fight, Leaflet, Home Office, 2014
- I am not a slave, Leaflet, Migrant Help
- Are you a child that has come to live in the UK from abroad? NSPCC Leaflet
- Modern Slavery Infographic
- Royal College of Nursing Pocket Guide for Nurses and Midwives – Modern Slavery
- Home Office UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery 2017
- Local Government Association (LGA) Guide for Councils on Modern Slavery, January 2018
The Human Trafficking Foundation (HTF) have produced a director of services in London that offer support to survivors of modern slavery:
The Redbridge Safeguarding Ault Board (RSAB) has produced, with the Redbridge Safeguarding Children Partnership (RSCP) a learning resource on modern slavery which provides a list of different activities according to what time you have to learn.
There are also a number of other options for learning:
- ECPAT eLearning Course – Safeguarding Trafficked Children – find out more on our elearning page.
- Open University – Open Learn – elearning course – Modern Slavery
- Home Office Film – Modern Slavery – Closer than you think
- Crimestoppers Film – Trafficking – read the signs
- BBC News – the dark side of modern slavery in the UK, 2014
- NHS England – Identifying and Supporting Victims of Modern Slavery elearning module
- Home Office – Modern slavery and victim identification guidance for public sector workers, October 2017
- Gang Masters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) Film, October 2017
- ‘Horse Trading’ – the traffickers view, GLAA Film, March 2016