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Home Office unable to monitor progress of modern slavery clampdown, PAC says

The Home Office has “no means of monitoring progress” of its anti-modern slavery crackdown or if it is achieving value for money, a chilling new report has found.

The review, ordered by the Commons and released yesterday, claimed that the government does not have the data to understand the complexities of the crime, nor does it have demographics and circumstances of both victims and perpetrators.

MPs from the Public Accounts Committee found that victims caught up in modern slavery and human trafficking are often left waiting for too long to find out whether they will be treated as a victim of modern slavery, causing “further distress and anxiety to vulnerable people.”

Interestingly, the committee discussed the impact of Brexit on the tackling of modern slavery; the National Crime Agency identified a risk in relation to intelligence sharing, including how quickly the UK could share intelligence to the wider European community, which could prevent trafficking gangs from operating throughout the continent.

In 2014 the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery and in 2013 it estimated that the overall social and economic cost to the UK of human trafficking for sexual exploitation alone was £890 million. Since then the number has skyrocketed further.

The Department introduced the Modern Slavery Strategy in 2014 with the aim of significantly reducing the prevalence of modern slavery. This was followed by the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, yet the parliamentary committee found that the government cannot ensure the effectiveness of the act due to a lack of data and systems to fully recognise the crime.

In its summary, the report claimed: “The department has not put in place minimum care standards and it does not inspect the level of care provided to potential victims, so it does not know whether victims are receiving adequate care.”

The summary continued to say the department does not know what happens after victims have gone through the system, such as whether they have been trafficked again.

In its recommendations, MPs argued the current victim support network, the National Referral Mechanism, “does not allow government to understand and deal with modern slavery effectively” and called for reform to the service.

Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Cllr Simon Blackburn, said: “Councils will not tolerate the exploitation of people in their communities and are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society.

“We are concerned that the current framework to support victims, the National Referral Mechanism, is unable to manage the high number of referrals, which has almost trebled since 2013. It is vital the Government presses on with its plans to reform this so it can meet victims’ needs.

“These reforms must be backed up with resources. Councils can play a key role in supporting trafficking victims, but we would like to see the Government provide clarity over how local authorities are expected to respond and for these responsibilities to be properly funded.”


Image Credit: PeopleImages

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