One of the UK’s most influential think tanks has today called on the UK Government to support Lord McColl’s Victim Support Bill which would guarantee rescued victims of modern slavery in England and Wales at least 12-month support.
CARE has long championed this Bill and its predecessor in the last Parliament.
The call comes in a new report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) which examines the reality of modern slavery in the UK.
It Still Happens Here: Fighting UK slavery in the 2020s is published by the CSJ’s Modern Slavery Unit, which itself is a partnership with leading anti-trafficking charity Justice and Care, the report highlights the grim reality of slavery in Britain in the 2020s.
The Modern Slavery Act
In 2015, the Modern Slavery Act became law. It was the first dedicated piece of anti-slavery legislation passed by Westminster for nearly 200 years. CARE was able to assist with its formulation, working in partnership with other policy makers and MPs to ensure the ground-breaking legislation was as effective as possible.
Amongst other things, the law consolidated existing offences into a single act, introduced new punishments for modern slavery crimes and created an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to improve and better co-ordinate the country’s response to modern slavery.
Since then, the law has been reviewed a number of times to determine its effectiveness. One persistent area of weakness has been the lack of guaranteed support for rescued victims.
CARE campaigning for victims
CARE took up this issue and has been campaigning on it, helping to found the Free for Good campaign to champion greater support for victims.
Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would provide rescued victims with a minimum of 12 months support, including financial assistance and accommodation.
Responding to the CSJ’s report, CARE’s CEO Nola Leach especially welcomed the recommendation that the Government support Lord McColl’s Bill.
It Still Happens Here: Fighting UK Slavery in the 2020s: Key Findings
In his forward to the report, former Conservative Party Leader and foreign Secretary, Lord Hague warned that COVID-19 had challenge of modern slavery all the greater.
He also called on the UK Government to act:
- Nobody knows the true scale and cost of the crime, but based on a new police data analysis tool we believe there could be at least 100,000 victims in the UK, with the actual number likely to be even greater.
- Many thousands of children, women and men of all nationalities and backgrounds - including a growing number of British citizens - continue to be trafficked and exploited for profit by ruthless criminal networks. They are tricked, taken and coerced into sexual slavery, crime, hard labour and domestic servitude. Forced addictions are increasingly used as methods of control.
- The British public can play a unique role in the fight against trafficking by reporting concerns to the police, but almost 60 per cent of people do not know who to tell when they spot the signs. Public awareness has improved though, with 63 per cent saying they are more aware of slavery than they were five years ago. 68 per cent say fighting modern slavery should be a top political priority.
- We need to update our understanding of the scale and nature of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK.
- The Government must enshrine survivor rights in law to guarantee and protect their access to support.
- Police engagement with victims needs to be transformed to dismantle criminal networks and bring more traffickers to justice.
- We need to understand what is happening to the growing number of Britons being enslaved.
This new report is a powerful reminder of the brutal reality of modern day slavery here in the UK. It might shock us to realise there are 100,000 people in some form of modern slavery in the UK today. CARE was privileged to play a role in shaping the Modern Slavery Act and since then we've been campaigning for victims in England and Wales to be given more support. We are delighted the CSJ has called on the Government to support Lord McColl's Bill. It remains to be seen whether that will happen.