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Devon & Torbay Anti-Slavery Partnership – Partner Briefing Spring 2020


Welcome to the second edition of the Devon & Torbay Anti-Slavery Partnership briefing document. This quarterly resource is a cost effective, environmentally friendly way to keep partners updated on all activity and any new developments in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking. We hope you find it useful – if you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Simply email

Who are we?

Tackling modern slavery and human trafficking requires a collective, coordinated and sustained effort from a range of agencies. No one individual or organisation can bring an end to this crime alone. Effective partnership working between organisations, both statutory and non-statutory, is therefore essential.

The Devon and Torbay Anti-Slavery Partnership (ASP) is a multi-agency group which provides a strategic direction and response to all threats, risks and harm identified in relation to modern slavery and human trafficking. Its work includes raising awareness and providing training as well as the facilitation of the sharing of information and intelligence between organisations to enable a joined up approach to disrupting offenders and supporting victims.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impact on Modern Slavery

Measures announced over recent weeks to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) have seen significant changes across the Partnership to meet new and evolving demands. As partner agencies prioritise and respond to COVID-19, this will no doubt bring disruption and divert attention away from other concerns such as modern slavery.

Modern slavery and human trafficking is a harmful and hidden crime and its victims may be especially isolated and hidden from view during the coronavirus outbreak. Survivors of trafficking and exploitation are likely to be particularly affected by the pandemic and the resulting social and economic constraint. Many have underlying physical health issues making them particularly vulnerable to becoming ill if they are infected. Due to circumstances outside of their control, most victims who fall ill are unlikely to seek healthcare for fear of being exposed to the authorities, or because they are forced to continue working in order to survive and pay off debts.

How will COVID-19 impact modern slavery? Below are some key concerns frontline workers should consider.

1. Increase in recruitment drives and reduced checks

With fluctuations in the labour market predicted, agencies and recruiters in high-demand sectors may potentially use shortcuts and reduced checks to speed up recruitment processes. The COVID-19 outbreak may provide opportunities for serious organise crime groups to take advantage of this disruption and urgency, potentially coercing victims of forced labour into these opportunities. Sectors which are at increased risk of unregulated labour because of surges in demand for goods and services include: supermarket supply chains, agriculture and food production, warehousing & logistics, waste & facilities management, social care, and medical manufacturers.

2. Heightening risks for those already exploited

Individuals already being exploited could find themselves even more vulnerable and at risk. Exploiters will continue to charge workers exorbitant fees for accommodation and food, but will likely be paying them less and offering less work in order to pay off debts. Workers will quickly find themselves in more dire circumstances and forced into greater risk and forms of illegality. For example, as demand for work in the sex trade reduces, victims may be forced into taking greater risks or be exploited in other ways, such as domestic servitude or drugs supply.

3. Reduction in enforcement and auditing

The impact of COVID-19 makes supporting victims of modern slavery and human trafficking even more challenging. With large numbers of staff working remotely, and premises visits to carry out audits and assessments significantly reduced, potential victims are likely to become even less visible. With partner agencies adapting the way in which they operate, and the increase and prominence of contact via virtual means, professionals should continue to remain vigilant and ensure an inquisitive mind-set is maintained. Modern slavery training resources to help professionals raise awareness, better spot the signs and increase confidence in reporting modern slavery can be found here.

National Referral Mechanism statistics

The Home Office have recently published the Q4 and end of year (2019) statistics for the number of potential victims of modern slavery referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

The key findings were:

  • The number of NRM referrals increased by 52% between 2018 and 2019.
  • The most common type of exploitation for both adults and minors was labour exploitation.
  • Potential victims from the UK, Albania and Vietnam were the three most common nationalities to be referred into the NRM.
  • Two thirds claimed their exploitation occurred in the UK only, whilst 26% claimed it took place overseas only.

a graph displaying the number of National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referrals between 2014 and 2019

Partner agency information sharing form

It is as important as ever for partners to continue to share information effectively. The sharing of information is fundamental to good practice in safeguarding and is critical to developing a clear picture of local and wider community issues which can inform Police and partner action to reduce threat, risk and harm. Frontline workers are encouraged to share non-urgent information concerning all forms of exploitation including modern slavery and human trafficking, via the Devon and Cornwall Police Partner Agency Information Sharing Form.

Government announces Modern Slavery Statement and Statutory Guidance

The Government has recently announced two significant steps in its efforts to eradicate modern slavery:

  • The Home Office has published new statutory guidance for safeguarding victims of modern slavery. The guidance covers indicators that a person may be a victim of modern slavery, the support available to potential victims, and the decision-making process for determining if someone is a victim.
  • The UK government has published its own modern slavery statement, which sets out how it will eradicate modern slavery from its supply chains and spending. The statement includes headline goals for ministerial departments to work towards as they too prepare to.

The National Referral Mechanism

Designated first responder organisations are reminded that they have a responsibility to identify potential victims of modern slavery through the submission of a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and Duty to Notify (MS-1) referral form. All referrals should be completed using the online digital process.

Where partners do not immediately have access to the internet when completing the form, an offline prompt sheet is available to collect information.

Further guidance on the NRM and how to complete the referral form is also available.

If you are not a first responder, you should contact a first responder organisation, such as the Police on 101. Alternatively you can call the modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or report it online.

Report your concerns

If you suspect that someone is a victim of modern slavery it is important that you remain safe. Direct confrontation, especially in the presence of the controller may cause increased harm to the victim and is not advised. Instead, inform the relevant authorities.

  • If there is an immediate risk to life contact 999
  • Contact your organisations dedicated safeguarding lead
  • Contact the police on 101 if there is no immediate threat to life
  • Call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or fill out an online form
  • Give anonymous and confidential information via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111


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