Modern slavery is a brutal form of serious and organised crime that exploits the most vulnerable, desperate people of our society.
Ruthless criminals target men, women, children of all nationalities and backgrounds coercing them into sexual exploitation, criminal and fraudulent activity, forced labour and domestic servitude with the sole purpose of receiving an illicit financial gain. Cuckooing is an emerging form of modern slavery, where criminals take over vulnerable people’s homes and use them for criminal purposes, such as the storage of firearms and drugs.
In 2013 the Home Office estimated that there could be as many as 13,000 potential victims in the UK. In 2020, using police data we estimated that there could be as many as 100,000 victims in the UK. The official statistics show that there were 17,000 adults and children identified as potential victims of modern slavery in 2022. This represents a 33% increase from the previous year and five times the numbers identified back in 2015, which were 3,264 potential victims. The true scale of this crime remains unknown.
At the same time, reporting of British victims is rising too. In 2022, the number of British potential victims rose to a record high. In the same year, one in five victims identified by the National Referral Mechanism were British children. Most of these children are forced into criminal exploitation like county lines drug dealing and shoplifting.
In 2013 the Centre for Social Justice published its ground-breaking report on modern slavery – ‘It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery’. The headline recommendation, a new Modern Slavery Act, was taken up by the Government and the Act came into law in 2015. Since then, Britain has made important progress against modern slavery, but we are losing the fight. We need an injection of new momentum and strategic leadership to stop modern slavery being a low risk/high reward crime.
The Modern Slavery Policy Unit, co-led by Justice and Care and the Centre for Social Justice has been created with the core mission – to keep modern slavery at the top of the British political agenda to ensure we fight the crime appropriately. This means better understanding of the nature and scale of modern slavery, increased investment and sophisticated national response to fight it appropriately.
Utilising frontline practitioners, hard-hitting evidence-based ideas, a new understanding about the scale of the abuse and listening to the survivor voices, our Unit works to catalyse the political leadership we need and achieve the systemic change to make the difference. We work on a cross-party basis, bringing together and equipping a strong caucus of parliamentarians to lead. Our task is to set Britain’s fight against modern slavery on course for the next 5-10 years.