Modern slavery

Services for Modern Slavery victims and others affected by Modern Slavery are provided across the Thames Valley by the Willow Project. To referral a person to the service, please use the Willow Project Referral Form 2019. You can also contact them by telephone on 01844 487987.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced and compulsory labour and domestic servitude. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

A large number of active organised crime groups are involved in modern slavery. But it is also committed by individual opportunistic perpetrators.

There are many different characteristics that distinguish slavery from other human rights violations, however only one needs to be present for slavery to exist.

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 has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.

Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, gender and races.

Human trafficking involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.

If an identified victim of human trafficking is also an adult with care and support needs, the response will be co-ordinated under the adult safeguarding process. The police are the lead agency in managing responses to adults who are the victims of human trafficking.

There is a national framework to assist in the formal identification and help to coordinate the referral of victims to appropriate services, known as the National Referral Mechanism.


Possible Indicators:

Signs of various types of slavery and exploitation are often hidden, making it hard to recognise potential victims. Victims can be any age, gender or ethnicity or nationality. Whilst by no means exhaustive, this is a list of some common signs:

  • Adult is not in possession of their legal documents (passport, identification and bank account details) and they are being held by someone else;
  • The adult has old or serious untreated injuries and they are vague, reluctant or inconsistent in explaining how the injury occurred.
  • The adult looks malnourished, unkempt, or appears withdrawn
  • They have few personal possessions and often wear the same clothes
  • What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
  • The adult is withdrawn or appears frightened, unable to answer questions directed at them or speak for themselves and/or an accompanying third party speaks for them.  If they do speak, they are inconsistent in the information they provide, including basic facts such as the address where they live
  • They appear under the control/influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.  Many victims will not be able to speak English
  • Fear of authorities
  • The adult perceives themselves to be in debt to someone else or in a situation of dependence


Environmental indicators

  • Outside the property- there are bars covering the windows of the property or they are permanently covered on the inside.  Curtains are always drawn.  Windows have reflective film or coatings applied to them.  The entrance to the property has CCTV cameras installed.  The letterbox is sealed to prevent use.  There are signs the electricity may have been tacked on from neighbouring properties or directly from power lines?
  • Inside the property- access to the back rooms of the property is restricted or doors are locked.  The property is overcrowded and in poor repair


Who should you tell?

If a professional becomes concerned that an individual is being exploited or is at risk of exploitation then they should act immediately. Raise the issue with your line manager and they will be able to provide you with some advice regarding your own agency’s/service’s procedures in this area. Complete the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking checklist – this will help you in your decision making and conversations with your line manager in terms of next steps.

It is also helpful for the Safeguarding Service when sending through a safeguarding alert and for contact with TVP.

If you believe the alleged victim to be a child you should make an immediate safeguarding referral to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). If in any doubt about age you should always treat the victim as a child if there is any reason to think the victim might be under 18 years of age.

If the alleged victim is an adult with care and support needs you should complete an adult safeguarding concerns form identifying “modern slavery” as the abuse type which will be sent to the Safeguarding Service for consideration. Consider whether you can have a conversation with the alleged victim in private.

You should not discuss your concerns with them other than in private. Other persons, including those they appear to know or trust or who may claim to be family members, might be exploiting the suspected victim and discussing your concerns with them might put the victim or others at risk.

Generally, if you believe that there may be other alleged victims involved you should inform TVP because of the wider duty of care to the other alleged victims. If it is not possible to refer them to TVP and you are able to speak to the alleged victim in private, ask their consent to refer them to the Independent Trauma Advice service.

Referrals to the Police should be made by calling 101. Only calls to 999 should be made if you suspect immediate risk of harm.

Support services for Modern Slavery victims and others affected by Modern Slavery are provided across the Thames Valley by Victims’ First – Willow Project.

Victims’ First – Willow Project

Under Thames Valley Partnership, the Victims First Willow Project is commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to be the Thames Valley Wide Exploitation & Complex Needs Service working across the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire (inc Milton Keynes) and Oxfordshire; seeking to identify and support those individuals who are assessed as having been victims of exploitation or who are deemed to be at risk of exploitation through:

  • Sexual Exploitation – forced sex work or working in the commercial sex industry (pornography, lap dancing, telephone lines etc.) ; those manipulated or coerced into sexual activities of any kind for another person’s gain
  • Modern Slavery – human trafficking; forced labour; domestic servitude; organ harvesting;
  • Financial Exploitation – debt bondage; finances controlled by others; financial scams; benefit fraud
  • Criminal Exploitation – those manipulated or coerced or trafficked for the purpose of any illegal activity i.e., County Lines/drug trafficking; cuckooing (taking over of a person’s property); forced street crime (shoplifting, begging etc.); cannabis cultivation
  • Cultural Exploitation – those manipulated or coerced using religious, social or cultural beliefs e.g., FGM, radicalisation, forced marriage

As well as supporting victims of Modern Slavery, trafficking and exploitation the service will provide much-needed specialist support for victims of other forms of serious crime (excluding sexual and domestic abuse for whom specialist services already exist).

The Victims First – Willow Project will provide prevention work, crisis intervention and ongoing long term support and work directly with victims of any age, their families and anyone else who may also be involved in the care and support of them including community groups and other services. Their person-centred support focuses on the areas that are important to our clients. They encourage activities that will promote improvement in physical and mental health & wellbeing, developing daily living skills and coping strategies to enable each individual to live independently in their communities. This ranges from help with housing, benefits, immigration status, education & employment, assistance through court processes, advocating at meetings, to hospital visits and arranging food or clothes parcels, to offering a listening ear.

Their support for an individual is not time-limited, they provide it for as long as it is needed, rather than prescribing a length of time. This can range from one-off support, a few weeks, months or even years – simply put, as long as an individual needs their support they will be there for them and also act as a bridge to other support services.

To referral a person to the service, please use the Willow Project Referral Form 2019.

Useful Links:

Local Authorities Referral Pathway for Adult Victims of Modern Slavery

Adult Modern Slavery Protocol for LA’s – Definitions and Indicators

Adult Modern Slavery Protocol for LA’s – Statutory Duties and Powers

Adult Modern Slavery Protocol for LA’s – NRM Process Guide for LA’s