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Case Studies

Modern slavery report

The Home Office introduced a Modern Slavery Strategy in 2014, but it has taken too long to learn what works in the system, to understand the complexities of the crime and to turn the strategy and the Modern Slavery Act into an effective and co-ordinated approach across UK Government, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee of MPs.

The Government does not yet have the data or systems to understand the crime, the demographics and circumstances of the victims and the perpetrators, making the digitisation of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) a priority. Nor does it know how much money it spends tackling modern slavery or what success looks like, meaning it cannot establish whether its strategy is working or how it should prioritise its actions, say MPs.

PAC Chair, the Labour MP Meg Hillier says: “Victims of modern slavery can face unimaginable horrors but the Government’s good intentions have yet to result in coherent action to help them. Government cannot hope to target resources in an effective manner until it properly understands the scale and nature of the challenge. This crime is complex and a piecemeal approach will not cut it. Government must get a grip on what works and what doesn’t; when things change, it must be sufficiently informed and agile to respond. There are flaws to address in the action it has taken thus far. Compliance with supply chains legislation is dismal and long waits in the referrals system are compounding the distress of potential victims.

“Monitoring of victim support services is poor and there are worrying variations in the response of local police forces. Brexit may complicate the picture further and it is critical that Government acts swiftly on the concerns set out in our report.”

According to MPs, potential victims are waiting far too long for a decision on whether they will be treated as a victim of modern slavery’ the Home Office has not put in place minimum care standards, and does not know what happens to victims after they have gone through the system and whether, for example, they have been trafficked again.

As featured in the March 2018 print issue of Professional Security magazine, police are likewise seeking to get to grips with this new crime of slavery and exploitation, whether to investigate cases or to prosecute offenders.

For the full report visit https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/886/88602.htm.

Comment

At the Local Government Association, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Simon Blackburn, said: “Councils will not tolerate the exploitation of people in their communities and are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society. However we are concerned that the current framework to support victims, the National Referral Mechanism, is unable to manage the high number of referrals, which has almost trebled since 2013. It is vital the Government presses on with its plans to reform this so it can meet victims’ needs.

“These reforms must be backed up with resources. Councils can play a key role in supporting trafficking victims, but we would like to see the Government provide clarity over how local authorities are expected to respond and for these responsibilities to be properly funded. It is also deeply worrying that the rise in referrals indicates a significant number of child victims of trafficking. Councils are determined to protect children in their communities, but with children’s services facing a funding gap of around £2 billion by 2020, this is extremely challenging.”


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