A report of the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has been published by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Review looks at the operation and efficacy of the Act and suggests improvements in four key areas, of which the safeguarding actual or potential child victims of modern slavery is one.
Since the Act was passed, the number of potential victims identified in the UK has doubled from 3266 in 2015 to 6993 in 2018; the number of children identified has increased from 30% to 45% during the same period, principally because of the rise in county lines and other forms of Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE). Still, the Review calls for urgent Government action to address deficiencies in data collection, low awareness of modern slavery and ineffective training of those most likely to encounter its victims.
Recommendations include expanding the revised model of support, particularly access to one-to-one Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs) and removing the 18-month limit; ensuring that defence practitioners, judges and magistrates are aware of the statutory defence and its operation, particularly for cases involving children; and clarification of the relationship between the NRM and criminal proceedings.
The Review acknowledges the increased vulnerability of looked After Children particularly between the ages of 16-17, during their transition from children’s to adult services. This vulnerability is exacerbated by internal delays and omissions in the transfer of support and information.
CCE and the s.45 Modern Slavery Act 2015 defence are now widely recognised, however, there is still work to be done. The number of children who are exploited is increasing, the NRM process is too slow and there is no support or safeguarding available to victims of exploitation who are treated as suspects.