Deciding whether there are grounds to suspect a person may be a victim of exploitation under the Modern Slavery Act is a crucial initial step. In making this decision it is important to consider all the information available and not rely solely on what potential victims may say. This is because potential victims may either not identify themselves as such, or may have been schooled by their exploiters to provide prepared answers.
- Look for the presence of the signs and indicators of modern slavery.
- Consider the nature and type of services that a victim is expected to provide; whether that be provision of labour, sexual services, or in being expected to commit other crimes.
- Consider whether or not the victim is providing those services of their own free will, or whether the person may be;
- Acting as a result of physical threat or menace, or;
- Acting as a result having been deceived, tricked or coerced.
If you suspect that a person is providing services due to threat, menace, control, coercion or as a result of having been deceived, then that person may be a victim of slavery or trafficking.
Remember too that there may be multiple victims as is often the case with modern slavery offences. Initial enquiries with victims should establish whether there are further victims to consider, possibly at other locations.
Due to the circumstances of their exploitation, victims may be reluctant to engage with the police or authorities. However, first contact with a victim is an opportunity to start building rapport.
An immediate consideration will be to ensure that a victim is either in, or is moved to a place of safety - and that any medical or welfare issues are attended to.
Victims may be in need of basic essentials such as food, clothing and toiletries. Local authority safe guarding teams may be able to assist with this.
Longer term support for victims is provided under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
It is imperative that the NRM process is explained fully before the victim is asked to consent to having their case referred into the NRM. (Children under 18 must be entered in the NRM process).
If a suspected victim does not engage or wish to be supported through the NRM a Duty to Notify submission will need to be made to the Home Office. Potential victims will also be informed of other organisations such as the Salvation Army, the Modern Slavery Helpline and local authority services that could be able to help.
The Salvation Army is contracted to provide support across the UK for the victims of modern slavery who enter the NRM process.
Accommodation is provided after the first five days as well as other support services such as counseling and therapy, and access to legal and other support services, this is through the NRM process.
The Salvation Army may be also able to assist if there are immediate accommodation requirements.
More detail can be found on the Salvation Army website
If the Salvation Army can't help, immediate accommodation will be arranged through local authority 24/7 safeguarding teams.