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Budget cuts reveal that Modern Slavery is ‘less of a priority’ for govt.

Human Trafficking
8 February 2024

Eleanor Lyons, the newly appointed anti-slavery commissioner, says that the priority to combat modern slavery has been diminished under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government compared to previous governments.

Lyons filled the position after an 18-month vacancy and has disclosed that her budget has been reduced from £605,000 to £500,000.

She says, “As I’m coming into the role halfway through the year, a lot of my budget has been reallocated so as of April next year, my budget for that year will be £500,000.

“I am absolutely pushing for more resource and budget because I think it’s important but I have been told by the Home Office that my budget will be cut every year that I am in role–- by five per cent every year.”

When speaking to the home affairs select committee, Lyons expressed concerns over the limited resources available to her office, including only two members of staff who are on fixed-term contracts, one ending this month and the other in April.

The constraints on her budget and staffing contrast sharply with her previous role as deputy children’s commissioner, where she managed a team of 30.

Lyons also raised alarm over the underreporting of the true scale of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK, estimating there to be around 130,000 victims.

She criticised the low prosecution rates for modern slavery offences and advocated for recognising "cuckooing" — drug dealers exploiting vulnerable individuals' homes — as a form of modern slavery.

Recent research by the International Organisation for Migration revealed delays in the modern slavery referral scheme, particularly affecting foreign nationals' access to support.

Despite these challenges, the Home Office affirms its commitment to combating modern slavery, referencing ongoing support for Lyons and funding for victim care services.

This situation underscores concerns about the government's prioritisation of modern slavery issues, the implications for victims, and the challenges faced by the commissioner in advocating for more substantial resources and support.

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