Modern slavery

Modern slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery.


The term ‘Modern Slavery' captures a whole range of types of exploitation, many of which occur together. These include but are not limited to:

  • sexual exploitation
  • domestic servitude
  • forced labour
  • criminal exploitation
  • other forms of exploitation: organ removal; forced begging; forced benefit fraud; forced marriage and illegal adoption.

The role of councils

Councils have a key role to play in tackling modern slavery, including in identifying and supporting victims and working in partnership locally. Councils' role can be separated into four distinct areas:

  1. identification and referral of victims
  2. supporting victims – this can be through safeguarding children and adults with care and support needs and through housing/homelessness services
  3. community safety services and disruption activities
  4. ensuring that the supply chains councils procure from are free from modern slavery.

Modern slavery intersects with many different areas that councils are involved with and a number of different officers might come across it while going about their everyday activities. Key examples where officers might come across victims include housing and homelessness services, community safety work, trading standards and licensing services, social services and customer services.

This is not an exhaustive list and there are many places where council staff and councillors may come across modern slavery or trafficking. Councils should consider how best to ensure a joined-up approach to the issues across their organisation.

Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidated the current offences relating to trafficking and slavery and introduced a range of new measures around the prevention of modern slavery events and the support and protection of victims of modern slavery. Key aspects of the Act included:

Duty to notify and National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

Under the Act, local authorities have a duty to notify the Home Office of any individual encountered in England and Wales who they believe is a suspected victim of slavery or human trafficking.

A range of Government resources explain the meaning of ‘duty to notify' and explain what you need to do if you think someone has been a victim of modern slavery:

  • how to notify the Government if someone has been a victim of modern slavery
  • the process for victims under 18
  • which forms should be filled in
  • what to do if the victim wants to remain anonymous.

The NRM is the process by which victims of modern slavery, including human trafficking, are recorded. The NRM was extended to all victims of modern slavery - both children and adults - in England and Wales following the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

It was estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013 but in 2015, only 3,266 potential victims were identified and referred to the NRM. The Duty to Notify is intended to gather better data about modern slavery.

Following on from a review of the NRM, findings of an NRM pilot launched in August 2015 were announced in October 2017. A further package of NRM reforms with a specific focus on improving and extending the support services to victims before, during and after the NRM was also announced.

LGA support

The LGA works to support council respond to the issue of modern slavery and in 2017 produced a useful guide: Tackling Modern Slavery. We continue to work with councils to highlight the great work local authorities do to tackle modern slavery and support victims. If you have any examples you wish to share do let us know by emailing info@local.gov.uk.

The LGA also respond to key announcements in the sector, for example our response to National Crime Agency figures on modern slavery published in early 2018.