Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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Next steps for tackling modern slavery

Morning, Thursday, 4th November 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the key current priorities in the context of a range of recent developments - including the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, as well as the overhaul of the asylum system - and their implications on addressing modern slavery and supporting victims.

The discussion also follows the recent commitment by the Government to review the 2014 Modern Slavery Strategy to ensure it is able to respond to evolving threats.

Overall, the conference will be an opportunity to consider options and next steps for improving:

  • the legislative and strategic framework, including asylum reform and the New Plan for Immigration 
  • safeguarding procedures and support for victims 
  • engagement with business and investors in tackling modern slavery, and reinforcing the effective use of modern slavery statements
  • tackling human rights abuses in supply chains domestically and transnationally

The agenda:

  • Tackling modern slavery in the wake of the pandemic
  • Modern slavery and the New Plan for Immigration - balancing safeguarding and enforcement in the immigration system, and improving the initial police response
  • Improving support for victims - grants of limited leave to remain, mental health, helping victims to engage with the criminal justice system, and holding perpetrators to account
  • The role of businesses, investors and consumers in tackling modern slavery - modern slavery statements, mobilising the power of customer decisions, and opportunities for investors to incentivise responsible practices
  • Strengthening the UK’s response to modern slavery in international supply chains

Key areas for discussion:
Modern slavery in the UK - assessing the state of play in the wake of the pandemic and key areas of concern:

  • scale - including the extent to which abuse may have gone hidden and underreported when pandemic-related restrictions have been in place, and implications for policy and practice
  • increased demand for services - what can be done to address the capacity of different sectors to effectively respond, and strategies for improving cross-sector co-operation
  • the response - assessing options for policy and frameworks to address the economic impact of the pandemic and heightened inequalities on the potential growth of modern slavery post-pandemic

The New Plan for Immigration and modern slavery - what is needed to underpin a joined-up and coherent response:

  • safeguarding - improving the system’s ability to balance between prevention, protecting victims of modern slavery and enforcing the new immigration rules
  • response:
    • improving the initial police response and skills levels amongst first responders
    • boosting the effectiveness of the system to identify victims and perpetrators, and assess the credibility of claims
    • reviewing the threshold for Reasonable Grounds, sharing best practice
    • strategies for growing victims’ trust of authorities
  • asylum:
    • reviewing support available for victims of modern slavery in terms of being granted temporary leave to remain
    • considering the recent decision around levels of proof of trafficking and detainment
    • assessing what more the asylum system can do to effectively respond to modern slavery

Driving up support for victims:

  • counselling and mental health recovery - improving access to services, spreading trauma-informed practice, addressing language and cultural barriers, and the role of the third sector
  • accommodation:
    • priorities for addressing the link between homelessness and modern slavery
    • improving victims’ access to secure housing
    • coordination policy and strengthening the capacity to help victims break free from abuse
  • legal aid, access to justice and the courts process:
    • improving access to support to help victims engage with the criminal justice system and hold perpetrators accountable
    • assessing the current capacity of the legal aid sector
    • the impact of court reform and new protections for vulnerable witnesses, and further ways to avoid re-traumatising victims during proceedings

Improving businesses’ and consumers role in tackling modern slavery:

  • modern slavery statements:
    • priorities for incentivising and enforcing compliance, and the effectiveness of sanctions
    • options for policy and strengthening legislation
    • ensuring and growing the usefulness of modern slavery statements
  • investor influence - examining how institutional and individual backers of companies can help incentivise transparent and responsible practices, and improving investor awareness
  • consumer power - improving information and awareness of the issues, encouraging responsible purchasing, and harnessing the potential of customer decisions to change businesses priorities

Strengthening the UK’s response to modern slavery in international supply chains:

  • collaboration in the UK - strategies for deepening businesses and government co-operation to tackle issues in supply chains and improve transparency
  • international approaches:
    • improving the evidence base behind what works in addressing modern slavery in transnational contexts
    • assessing the deployment of diplomatic initiatives, economic pressure and other approaches to focusing international action
    • what can be learned from the international response to abuses identified in Xinjiang, and ways to take forward best practice
  • trade - further considerations around the impact of tackling modern slavery on the UK’s standing in international trade

Recent developments:

  • the New Plan for Immigration:
    • outlining the Government’s overhaul of the asylum and immigration system
    • seeking better coordination with policy on modern slavery
    • with measures on:
      • foreign national offenders seeking modern slavery referrals, and improving the identification of genuine victims of modern slavery
      • improving first responder training to enable them to make these distinctions better and faster
      • enhancing support for genuine victims
      • evaluating the threshold for reasonable grounds, and making sure the system is able to properly explore concerns of individuals seeking to trick the system
  • increased support for victims of modern slavery - looking at initiatives, options and next steps including:
    • private counselling and mental health support
    • new legislation deeming victims of modern slavery to be eligible for temporary leave to remain in the UK
    • a review of the 2014 Modern Slavery Strategy to ensure the approach continues to evolve to meet current challenges in this area
    • the Modern Slavery Prevention Fund - a new fund for improving the ability of external organisations to prevent people becoming involved in modern slavery
  • the Modern Slavery Statement Registry - a new online platform operated by the Home Office for businesses to submit their modern slavery statements
  • Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang and UK value chains - a report from the BEIS Committee on Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang and the links that UK business and value chains have to the region:
    • calling for more action to ensure international supply chains are not complicit in the abuse
    • including proposing the creation of a working group to facilitate the listing of companies who meet, or do not meet, their obligations to uphold human rights in their supply chains
  • Police super-complaints: police response to victims of modern slavery - the recent investigation into a super-complaint submitted by Hestia accusing the police of failing to respond adequately to victims of modern slavery:
    • undertaken by HMICFRS, the College of Policing, and the IOPC
    • finding victims are often not made to feel safe and do not receive the support they need
    • recommending access to training and professional development be improved for staff, especially in relation to victim support arrangements
  • No way out and no way home: modern slavery and homelessness in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - a recent report from Crisis, as a part of Project TILI, seeking to understand the links between modern slavery and homelessness and how they can influence each other, finding that:
    • under half of homeless victims of modern slavery were referred to the National Referral Mechanism
    • almost half of victims explicitly chose to not be referred
    • about two-thirds of those experiencing modern slavery live in accommodation linked to the perpetrators
  • UK Government announces business measures over Xinjiang human rights abuses - the announcement by the Foreign Secretary of a number of measures for making sure British organisations do not contribute to or profit from forced labour and abuse in Xinjiang, including:
    • reviewing export controls to ensure the UK does its best in preventing goods that may be contributing to human rights abuses in Xinjiang from being exported
    • introducing fees for organisations failing to publish annual modern slavery statements
    • providing guidance for UK businesses regarding the risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang in regards to being complicit with human rights abuses
    • improving support for UK public bodies to exclude suppliers involved in human rights violations from their supply chains, with compliance made mandatory
  • the Modern Slavery Innovation Fund: Phase One Independent End Term Review:
    • finding that the projects funded by the MSIF have facilitated innovative thinking in this area
    • recommending increasing investment in upskilling grantees and deepening collaboration with policymakers to facilitate the translation of insights into policy
  • updated Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention guidance:
    • requiring victims of trafficking to provide more proof if they wish to avoid detention
    • bringing their treatment on par with the treatment of other vulnerable groups in immigration detention
    • followed by criticism and concern from human rights organisations arguing the changes will result in more victims of trafficking being detained, and weaken victims’ access to support
  • Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK - the most recent Home Office figures for the UK:
    • showing a plateauing in numbers
    • prompting concern over the crime having been underreported and hidden during the pandemic
  • Modern Slavery Act: Five years of reporting - the recent report from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre evaluating the performance of the Act in delivering on its aims, and finding that:
    • despite 40% consistently failing to comply with submitting modern slavery statements, no penalties have been incurred as a result
    • the corporate statements published have been of a general nature and have not engaged with risks and concerns specific to particular regions and sectors
    • the Act has not significantly helped to eradicate modern slavery

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

For this conference, as is typical of our meetings, we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and other relevant Departments, together with other stakeholders involved in tackling modern slavery in the UK, including senior representatives from law firms and all aspects of the criminal justice system, immigration and asylum support services, charities and campaign groups, local government, family and marriage mediators, businesses, police forces, social services, mental health support services, investment and wealth management companies, human rights campaigners, researchers from academia and higher education, as well as reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Damian Johnson

Deputy Director, Modern Slavery Unit, Home Office


Nusrat Ghani MP

Member, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee


Councillor Meenal Sachdev

Community, Leisure, Culture and Health Lead and Community and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Hertsmere Borough Council and Director, Shiva Foundation

Matt Crossman

Stewardship Director, Rathbone Investment Management

Dr Erika Jiménez

Rights Lab Research Fellow in Modern Slavery and COVID Risk and Mitigation, University of Nottingham

Tamara Cincik

Chief Executive Officer, Fashion Roundtable and Secretariat, All-Party Parliamentary Group For Ethics & Sustainability In Fashion

Senior speaker confirmed from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Office

Simon Platts

Responsible Sourcing Director, ASOS

Patrick Ryan

Chief Executive, Hestia