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Cost of modern slavery

The unit cost of each person in modern slavery (£328,720) is higher than the unit costs for any crime type, except for murder (£3.2m) according to a Home Office research report.

That cost is made up of the physical and emotional harm to victims – estimated total 11,500 – whether of labour or sexual exploitation or ‘domestic servitude’, lost output and time (while victims are being exploited), and costs to health and law enforcement. Multiply the two, and the overall cost of modern slavery to the country could amount to billions of pounds each year.

Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires that any company supplying goods or services in any sector in the UK and above a turnover of £36m must produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year; to set out what steps organisations have taken to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chains. Cost of meeting that requirement is estimated at £1.5m.

According to the report, The Economic and Social Costs of Modern slavery, costing of crime types is useful to inform priorities for action and to better understand the value of prevention activity. The fact that the unit cost of crimes of modern slavery is second only to homicide justifies treating this crime type as a priority due to this high level of harm to society. The high unit cost also demonstrates the potential benefit from preventing this crime type and can be used to make the case for more ‘upstream’ preventative activity such as public awareness campaigns in countries of origin for victims, or providing training or risk assessment tools for frontline staff to identify potential victims.

In the last year, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), which is an arm’s length body of the Home Office, made 107 modern slavery arrests. Police report more than 600 live investigations.

Alongside the research, the Home Office plans an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015; led by Labour MP Frank Field, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Conservative MP Maria Miller. Home Office junior minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, said: “The Prime Minister established this country as a world leader in this fight through our ground-breaking laws and law enforcement approach.

“However, as this awful crime is evolving, it is our responsibility as citizens, businesses and governments to do all we can to stop exploitation. This independent review will help us identify what more we can do to tackle this terrible, global injustice by enhancing the Modern Slavery Act where necessary. Chairing the Business Against Slavery Forum last week, it is clear some companies are leading the way but others are falling behind. I’ve asked for this review to look at if we should strengthen our legislation to ensure businesses are taking robust action to eradicate forced labour in their supply chains.”


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