Unseen is committed to continuing its fight to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not subject to a life of abuse and exploitation at the hands of others. Modern Slavery is a crime that knows no boundaries and is hidden in plain sight. Women, men and children from all nationalities and communities are subject to sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation.

"Modern slavery impacts everyone regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity and age."

In 2014, the UK Government estimated there were between 10-13,000 potential victims in modern slavery at any one time, in the UK. However, the National Referral Mechanism (the UK Governments system for identifying and supporting potential victims) is likely to see referrals for more than 6,000 potential victims this year. Add this to the 4,000 potential victims indicated through the UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline so far in 2017 and the Government’s estimate seems very conservative indeed.

 

Spots the signs and know what to do

 

We must remember that we are dealing with a crime that is complex and difficult to detect. More work is needed to equip those on the front line to spot the signs and know what to do. Without the correct training, vulnerable individuals who are abused and exploited at the hands of others will fail to be identified and the opportunity to help them out of the situation will pass.

"We are likely to come into contact with modern slavery, in our day-to-day lives, without even realising it."

As members of the public and consumers we are likely to come into contact with modern slavery in our day-to-day lives without even realising it. That is because we make decisions and choices every day about the services we use and the goods we buy. The choices we make could therefore inadvertently be fueling the illicit trade of modern slavery.

To support and protect victims of modern slavery Unseen provides safe accommodation and access to counselling and wider support services in partnership with The Salvation Army and other service providers under the National Referral Mechanism. Reintegration and outreach services are also provided for those who do not need accommodation. The impact of this work on survivors’ lives can be seen through specific case studies. By the end of 2017, Unseen will be opening its newest project – a children’s safe house – providing specialist safe accommodation for child victims of modern slavery. With significant numbers of children going missing from local authority care once they are identified as a modern slavery victim, the accommodation seeks to provide children with the right environment to recover from their ordeal and maximise their life chances.

Since October last year Unseen has operated the UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline which provides information, advice and support on a 24/7 basis to potential victims, statutory agencies, businesses and the public. As a key tool in the UK’s fight against modern slavery the helpline, in its first year, has taken over 3,000 calls, indicating 4,000 potential victims and has made referrals to nearly every police force in the UK.

Cristina Gavrilovic, the Kent and Essex Anti-Slavery Partnerships coordinator said ‘Essex Police and Kent Police are advocating the MS Helpline as the alternative support helpline for advice and help and we have seen a sharp increase [in cases] over the last 6 months which shows us that the MS Helpline is crucial to the work we do. Both professionals and potential victims have an alternative life line when in need knowing that the Police Forces will be informed swiftly to ensure we are able to respond appropriately.’

 

National co-operation to stop it happening in the first place

 

Collaboration and partnership working is vital if we are to tackle this crime effectively. A wide range of organisations and agencies are needed to understand the issue, identity potential victims and go after the criminals. These include the National Crime Agency, Border Force, Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority, the police, NGOs and the UK Governments. The business community also has a vital part to play in ensuring that their organisations and supply chains remain slavery free. Consumers need to know which businesses are taking action to prevent people from being exploited. TISCreport supports total transparency. It is the only neutral central registry, which hosts transparency statements in one place made by organisations under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, allowing consumers, investors and the public - at a glance - to see what action businesses are taking.

"The modern slavery the helpline, in its first year, tookover 3,000 calls, indicating 4,000 potential victims."

As key proponents and instigators of the Modern Slavery Act, Unseen’s executive team is focused on preventing modern slavery from occurring in the first place and ensuring the criminals are caught and brought to justice. We do this through sharing what we know about modern slavery, acknowledging that data is key. That is why, in addition to sharing helpline data, we are developing a victim care case management system to ensure that the most valuable insights about how modern slavery occurs – from victims themselves – is captured, understood and fed into policy makers and those on the front line.

As we continue our collective mission, we want to ensure our international counterparts share our learning and experience ensuring that, regardless of where an individual is in the world they can get the help and support they need and deserve.