Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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Next steps for tackling modern slavery - the impact of COVID-19, UK policy and organisational practice, and the global response

February 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on combating modern slavery in the UK - assessing progress and looking at key outstanding issues and next steps.


It comes as the UK becomes the first country to publish a UK government modern slavery statement setting out how the government is tackling the crime in its supply chains, five years on from the Modern Slavery Act.


The seminar will also be an opportunity to consider the challenges presented by COVID-19 for both service providers and users, with many support workers delivering services to victims remotely.


The discussion is bringing stakeholders together with key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; Home Office; the MoJ; UK Visas and Immigration; the Crown Prosecution Service; the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; the Office of the Sentencing Council; the Office of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement; DWP; the Department of Justice NI; the Crown Commercial Service; DCMS; HMRC; and The Scottish Government.


The agenda:


  • ‘Preventing modern slavery and human trafficking - a partnership between government, business and citizens’
  • Priorities for research and evidence to improve the legal and policy framework
  • Prosecuting offenders, safeguarding victims and raising awareness of exploitation
  • Next steps for tackling modern slavery in the UK - dealing with the impact of COVID-19, the NRM, and improving victim support
  • Collaboration between different bodies, identifying victims and enforcement
  • Tackling modern slavery globally
  • Meeting the challenge for organisations - transparency, action on supply chains, and ensuring best practice
  • Next steps for policy in tackling modern slavery

Key areas for discussion:


  • COVID-19:
    • the policy response - assessing the impact of short-term measures introduced by government during lockdown, amid concerns about increased risk to those vulnerable to modern slavery
    • trafficking patterns during the pandemic - what needs to be done to prevent gaps in provision of services for victims with an increasing number of people being forced out of jobs, particularly in lower paid industries
  • the National Referral Mechanism (NRM):
    • assessing implementation
    • the NRM during lockdown - did potential victims get the help they needed, with the Mechanism continuing to operate and support workers often working remotely
  • joint working - how can collaboration between the NRM and local safeguarding partners be improved and how progress can be measured, in light of the review of multi-agency frameworks
  • the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract:
    • implementation and delivery - what will be needed to achieve the aim of enabling victims of modern slavery to access more flexible support under an improved service
    • impact - what it means for front-line support workers and victims
  • modern slavery statements:
    • attitudes to reporting - impact of the government decision to mandate key topics for modern slavery statements on statements being regarded by some organisations as tick box exercises
    • enforcement - the potential introduction of sanctions for non-compliance and establishment of a unified enforcement body to oversee compliance
    • transparency - examining the requirement that public bodies, including local authorities that have a budget of £36m or more, will be required to report regularly:
      • likely impact - and how to ensure that this new requirement is not a burden on public agencies
      • accessibility - if transparency will be improved by the new requirement to publish statements on the new digital government reporting service
  • research priorities - key areas for data and evidence gathering as the AHRC/ESRC/UKRI-backed Modern Slavery PEC conducts its consultation, with discussion expected on options such as what happens to people once they have passed through the National Referral Mechanism and whether they have been successful in rebuilding their lives, particularly in light of the pandemic
  • international collaboration:
    • the UK’s role - assessing what the Government is doing to work with other countries
    • imported goods - where the products made by slavery victims are marketed and what more the UK and other governments can do on regulation and enforcement of the labour conditions

A scan of relevant developments:


  • heightened risk - warnings on human trafficking and worker exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic from the International Rescue Committee and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner
  • targeted government intervention - the Foreign Secretary announcing new measures to ensure British companies are not complicit or profiting from forced labour in Xinjiang
  • supply chains:
    • Transparency in supply chains consultation - Government response - setting out new measures to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act and ensure that large businesses and public bodies tackle modern slavery in their supply chains
    • Government announces new action to prevent modern slavery in its supply chains - publishing its assessment of modern slavery across approximately £50bn of public spending, with statements from individual departments to come
  • financial services:
    • the Anti-Slavery Commissioner identifying the need for raise awareness of modern slavery practices in the sector, and highlighting knowledge and training gaps
    • with nearly half of financial services managers reported to either not have - or be unaware of - whether their company has modern slavery policy in place
  • aid - the UK government accepting the Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s recommendations on the UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme, including:
    • research - to develop a more systematic approach to filling knowledge and evidence gaps, to guide choices when making modern slavery interventions
    • victim engagement - to draw more on survivors’ input to understand and reflect lived experiences of modern slavery when designing policy and programmes for victims
    • reporting - for the UK to publish a statement of overall objectives and approach for using UK aid to tackle modern slavery internationally
  • the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) ­­- the framework in England and Wales for identifying potential modern slavery victims, aimed at making sure they receive appropriate support
  • Evaluation of the modern slavery Local Authority Pathway pilots - with recommendations for new approaches to support victims transitioning out of NRM support, as most victims required additional support to secure accommodation and overcome challenges due to not speaking fluent English
  • New contract to deliver improved support for modern slavery victims - the new Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract awarded to The Salvation Army
  • The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre - consultation on immediate and longer-term research priorities

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from both Houses of Parliament and officials from BEIS; the Home Office; the Ministry of Justice; UK Visas and Immigration; the Crown Prosecution Service; the Crown Commercial Service; the DCMS; HMRC; the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; the Office of the Sentencing Council; the Office of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement; the DWP; the Department of Justice NI and The Scottish Government. Also due to attend are representatives from Addleshaw Goddard; Ann Craft Trust; Arts and Humanities Research Council; Aston University; Baker McKenzie; CEASE UK; Charles Russell Speechlys; Coyle Personnel; Drax Group; Embassy of the Republic of Poland; FM Conway; G's; HCA Healthcare; Kingsley Napley; Mishcon de Reya; Mulalley & Co.; N/A; Newcastle University; North England Commissioning Support Unit; Northumbria Police; Ocado Group; Office for National Statistics; OPCC Hampshire; Outspiral; PPS; Retired Civil Servant; Shropshire Council; Stella Maris; St Mary's University; St Mary’s University; SUEZ Recycling & Recovery UK; Tendring District Council; The Berkeley Group; The Berkeley Group Holdings; The Open University; The University of Edinburgh; University of Bath; University of Liverpool; University of Oxford; University of Oxford, Law Faculty; WarnerMedia; West Midlands Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner; West Sussex County Council and Workplace Relations Commission.


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



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles