ONS - Modern slavery in the UK: March 2020

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26 March 2020

Modern slavery in the UK: March 2020

Today the Office for National Statistics has published its first article on modern slavery.

Because of its hidden nature, producing an accurate prevalence measure is difficult. Currently there is no definitive source of data or suitable method available to accurately quantify the number of victims of modern slavery in the UK.

Instead, the ONS has worked in partnership with the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Modern Slavery Helpline, UK National Referral Mechanism, the Salvation Army and other stakeholders, publishing a range of data to help provide a better understanding of the extent and nature of the crime.

Main points:

  • The Modern Slavery Helpline received a 68% increase in calls and submissions in the year ending December 2018 compared with the previous year
  • There were 5,144 modern slavery offences recorded by the police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 51% from the previous year

  • The number of potential victims referred through the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) increased by 36% in the year ending December 2018 to 6,985

  • Almost a quarter (23%) of the 6,985 potential victims referred through the NRM in the year ending December 2018 were UK nationals

Helen Ross, Centre for Crime and Justice, Office for National Statistics, said:

“This is the ONS’s first attempt to bring data sources together on modern slavery to help us better understand both the nature of this terrible crime and the potential demand on support services.

“While there is no one source or method available which accurately quantifies the number of victims in the UK, evidence suggests there have been improvements in identification since the introduction of the modern slavery acts in 2015. Yet this is only part of the story, as many cases remain hidden and unreported.”

Modern slavery is a serious crime being committed across the UK in which victims are exploited for someone else’s gain. Victims are often hidden away, may be unable to leave their situation or may not come forward due to fear or shame.

Sir Bernard Silverman, Professor of Modern Slavery Statistics at the University of Nottingham, said:

“Modern slavery takes many forms, usually but not always involving trafficking of people across and within countries. Victims may be coerced into prostitution or otherwise sexually abused; they may become forced labourers in both legitimate and illegal areas of the economy; they may be in domestic servitude or involved in drug dealing or other illegal activities; they may be enslaved or exploited in many other ways, even as horrendous as organ harvesting.

“If we are to fight slavery effectively, an evidence-based approach is crucial. Academic, Non-Governmental Organisations and government research all have an essential role to play in informing the policies and practices that underpin this vital effort.”

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer Of Devon & Cornwall Police and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) lead on modern slavery added:

“Modern slavery can be hard to identify and track but recent years have seen many agencies, police amongst them, build a far greater understanding of the threat and how to respond to it. As part of that we have seen an almost ten-fold increase in the number of live police investigations into modern slavery and we welcome any further effort to share knowledge and better target the partnership work needed to prevent this awful form of crime from taking place.”

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Finding help

If you or someone you know is being/has been exploited or you are unsure if someone is in need of help; assistance and advice is available:

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