Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery is the fastest growing international crime and there are clear links between trafficking, modern slavery and homelessness. Despite legislation to abolish slavery being passed more than 200 years ago, there are millions of people living in modern slavery around the world, including thousands here in the UK. Modern slavery is a complex crime that takes on different forms. The term encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • Forced to work through mental or physical threat;
  • Owned or controlled by an ‘employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
  • Dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property;’
  • Physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement


The following definitions are encompassed within the term ‘modern slavery’ for the purposes of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. These are:

  • ‘slavery’ is where ownership is exercised over a person
  • ‘servitude’ involves the obligation to provide services imposed by coercion
  • ‘forced or compulsory labour’ involves work or service extracted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily
  • ‘human trafficking’ concerns arranging or facilitating the travel of another with a view to exploiting them.

Human Trafficking 

Human trafficking is the movement of people by means such as force, fraud, coercion or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. It is a form of modern slavery and is made up of an ACT, a MEANS and a PURPOSE.

Labour Exploitation

Labour exploitation victims are forced to work illegally, against their will in many different work sectors, most notably: Brothels, Car washes, nail bars, restaurants and take aways, cannabis farms, agriculture and even domestic servitude in private households. 


In the UK, the police work closely with specialist teams (i.e. Hope for Justice), other frontline agencies and members of the public to identify the victims of modern slavery, build bridges of trust and facilitate their rescue.

The Very Brief Intervention (VBI) pages below provides information about spotting the signs of Modern Slavery, conversation prompts with potential victims and resources to support both officers and victims of Modern Slavery.

Very Brief Intervention


It is important to be aware of what Modern Slavery is, how to spot the signs of a potential victim and how to support someone who may be at risk. Some indicators of Modern Slavery are:

Other general signs of Modern Slavery

  • The individual has no information about their rights as a worker or visitor in the UK
  • They are unsure of medical history and they may show signs of neglect and ill health (potentially from chronic deprivation or abuse) Some victims working in prostitution may look well kept.
  • They are not registered with a GP, school or nursery
  • Their history is vague and inconsistent 
  • They are always accompanied by someone who appears controlling.
  • The person with them does all the talking and never leaves them alone 

Here are questions you might ask if you suspect a person may be a victim of Modern Slavery. Victims are likely to be afraid of the authorities so make it clear that you are here to help and support and try to build trust

Are you scared of anybody?

Are you being asked to do anything against your will?

Has your documentation been taken away or is it being held by somebody?

Are your movements restricted or do you feel you cannot leave because you feel threatened?

What would happen if you decided to leave your current situation?

Are you escorted to and from places? Work? Home?

Do you need medical attention?


Take appropriate police action or for advice and guidance about how best to proceed there are a number of national resources available for advice. 

Refer to local authority safeguarding teams for any cases involving children.

Modern Slavery Helpline

Provides specialist help, advice an support about modern slavery to safeguard potential victims and to prevent more people from becoming victims in the first place. 

Tel: 0800 0121 700 - Available 24 hours a day

Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTC)For enquiries for the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU), including referrals to the National Referral Mechanism and operational tactical advice on any human trafficking related matters 24 hours a day please call:

Tel: 0844 778 2406

Hope for Justice

For help and information about Modern Slavery. In the UK, specialist teams work closely with police to help facilitate victim rescue.

Tel: (0)300 008 8000 - Monday to Friday 9.00am-5.30pm

Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority

Tel:  0800 432 0804


You may want to share details of the one of the organisations below who specialise in providing support for victims of Modern Slavery

UK – Salvation Army

The Salvation Army provides specialist support for all adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales. Their confidential referral helpline is available 24 hours a day.

Tel: 0800 808 3733


Childline provide free, confidential support to children about any topic, including modern slavery and human trafficking. Children can speak to a counsellor on the phone:

Tel: 0800 1111 (Available 7.30am-1.00am every day)


If you’re worried about a child, even if you are unsure, the NSPCC helpline is available 24 hours a day for advice from a trained counsellors. 

Tel: 0808 800 5000

Pay and Work Rights Helpline

For cases of exploitation that do not meet the threshold for modern slavery 

Tel: 0300 123 1100 

Local Support and Contact Details