Abuse and Neglect Blog – Modern Slavery

The term “slavery” is something we generally associate with the past, but the occurrence of “modern slavery” is on the rise.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) came into force on 29 October 2015. It consolidated existing slavery and trafficking offenses and introduced new measures to address these issues in the UK.

The MSA offers advice to private companies and public authorities on how to actively combat modern slavery.

As well as requiring organizations with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to publish an annual statement on slavery and human trafficking, it also imposes obligations on small businesses and public authorities .

In addition to organizations being called to account in terms of their corporate transparency obligations, there are separate criminal penalties under Sections 1, 2, 4 and 30 of the MSA that apply to those found guilty. of forced labor and trafficking offences, this can be applied to business owners and managers.

Under the MSA, public authorities are required to notify the Home Office of anyone they encounter in England and Wales who they believe is a suspected victim of slavery or human trafficking. This applies to all police forces and local authorities in England and Wales.

Despite the MSA over the past five years, the number of people reported as victims of modern slavery in the UK has increased dramatically. The government estimates a figure in the range of 10,000 to 13,000 people, but given the illegality of modern slavery, it is very difficult to quantify and experts in the region believe it is more like 100,000 people.

Many cases of modern slavery involve human trafficking where vulnerable people enter the UK illegally and are forced or coerced into ‘working’ for little or no pay. Experts suggest the rise in numbers is linked to the negative and hostile environment created by Brexit and UK immigration policies increasing the risk of forced labour.

Not all of the victims are from overseas, UK victims include people who have experienced financial hardship, leaving them vulnerable and easily lured into ‘good-paying work’ – a lie that often leads to exploitation.

Modern slavery is also strongly linked to the sex industry, unfortunately frequently involving children. In many scenarios, failure to perform “work” in the sex industry can lead to threats, extreme violence, and similar threats against family members.

A recent release of Home Office figures confirmed that only one in 50 modern slavery cases reported to police in 2020 resulted in a suspect being charged. The data also confirmed that ten police forces did not charge a single modern slavery offence, despite closing 791 cases between them.

It is suggested that around half of the victims of modern slavery are children; such a question was brought to the fore very recently when Sir Mo Farah revealed his experiences as a child when he was illegally brought to the UK at the age of 9 for a life of domestic servitude.

Although the MSA is in place, it is clear from the growing statistics that more needs to be done to tackle this persistent and serious problem.

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