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Modern slavery

Some cases of domestic abuse also lie within the field of modern slavery. Cases such as domestic servitude can very often be seen only as coercive control when in fact there is a much deeper issue. Thames Valley Police have composed this page to explain what modern slavery is and how it can be addressed.

There are also two useful infographics:

Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act (2015), year on year there have been steady increases in the number of potential victims identified and referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK’s system for identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery.

Yet, modern slavery remains a significantly underreported crime. In 2013 the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000-13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. In contrast, academic research carried out in 2016 estimated that there are as many as 2,462 victims in the Thames Valley alone, providing some indication of the scale of the issue.

The Anti-Slavery Coordinator working for Thames Valley Police has been working closely with partner agencies to increase awareness of modern slavery and to develop an effective wider partnership response to identify and support potential victims. This has included establishing multi-agency Anti-Slavery Networks in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, supporting local authorities in setting up local strategic groups and action plans, producing quarterly infographics for each Local Policing Area to help inform the local picture, as well as introducing Modern Slavery Single Point of Contacts (Spocs) for each of the Local Policing Areas.

What is modern slavery?

In short, modern slavery is a type of exploitation. It’s about someone or a group of people benefiting at someone else’s expense and is currently one of the most profitable crime types globally. The term modern slavery refers to forced labour, forced criminality, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation and incorporates a huge range of exploitation types from children or vulnerable adults forced to deal drugs on behalf of organised crime groups, to individuals being forced to work in poor conditions, for long hours and little or no pay having had their identification documents taken from them.

Victims of modern slavery are unable to leave their situation of exploitation, controlled by threats, violence, coercion and deception. Most do not recognise themselves as being exploited, echoing similarities to those affected by domestic abuse. There are often also further barriers to disclosure and accessing support including a fear/distrust of authorities, a lack of awareness that support is available and a perception of being in debt to those exploiting them.

How can modern slavery be recognised within a domestic setting?

It is widely recognised that there is considerable overlap between domestic abuse and modern slavery and within a domestic setting, there are a number of indicators of modern slavery that you as professionals may recognise.

This could include individuals working in households in excess of normal hours, having limited free time, having limited freedom to leave the household unaccompanied, being deprived of food/water, having perceptions of being bonded by debt, having little interaction with the rest of the household and being subject to threats or violence.

As outlined in the Home Office (2017) Typology of Modern Slavery, this can include scenarios where the exploiter is not related to the victim in the context of a domestic worker or scenarios where an individual is exploited by a partner and/or extended family potentially as part of an arranged or forced marriage.

A series of 5 questions has been developed that you may find useful when considering whether someone is being exploited.

  • Are you living the life you expected and were told about prior to coming here?
  • Do you know where your identity documents/passport are and can you access them freely?
  • If you wanted to leave this job or accommodation would you be able to?
  • Have you ever had threats made to you or your family if you do not do what you are told?
  • Are you able to make contact with your family or friends when you want?

What support is available for potential victims?

For those identified as potential victims of modern slavery, support is available through the National Referral Mechanism for a minimum of 45 days including safe accommodation, outreach support, counselling, legal advice and more. For adults however, this is a consent based system and it is recognised that individuals may not always consent to this process.

Victims First Willow Project

Under Thames Valley Partnership, the Victims First Willow Project is commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to be the Thames Valley Wide Exploitation & Complex Needs Service working across the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire (inc Milton Keynes) and Oxfordshire; seeking to identify and support those individuals who are assessed as having been victims of exploitation or who are deemed to be at risk of exploitation through:

  • Sexual Exploitation – forced sex work or working in the commercial sex industry (pornography, lap dancing, telephone lines etc.); those manipulated or coerced into sexual activities of any kind for another person’s gain
  • Modern Slavery – human trafficking; forced labour; domestic servitude; organ harvesting;
  • Financial Exploitation – debt bondage; finances controlled by others; financial scams; benefit fraud
  • Criminal Exploitation – those manipulated or coerced or trafficked for the purpose of any illegal activity i.e., County Lines/drug trafficking; cuckooing (taking over of a person’s property); forced street crime (shoplifting, begging etc.); cannabis cultivation
  • Cultural Exploitation – those manipulated or coerced using religious, social or cultural beliefs e.g., FGM, radicalisation, forced marriage

As well as supporting victims of Modern Slavery, trafficking and exploitation, the service provides much-needed specialist support for victims of other forms of serious crime (excluding sexual and domestic abuse for whom specialist services already exist).

The Victims First Willow Project will provide prevention work, crisis intervention and ongoing long term support and work directly with victims of any age, their families and anyone else who may also be involved in the care and support of them including community groups and other services. Their person-centred support focuses on the areas that are important to the clients. They encourage activities that will promote improvement in physical and mental health & wellbeing, developing daily living skills and coping strategies to enable each individual to live independently in their communities. This ranges from help with housing, benefits, immigration status, education & employment, assistance through court processes, advocating at meetings, to hospital visits and arranging food or clothes parcels, to offering a listening ear.

You can refer to this service through the Victims First Willow Project Referral Form or calling Victims First on 0300 1234 148.

We need your help to continue our work reducing the risk of domestic abuse. Find out more about how you can get involved!