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Modern Slavery involves the exploitation of human beings, and the treatment of them as though they were a commodity. Victims are bought and sold, their bodies and their labour used for other’s gain. Their day to day activities and freedoms are controlled, often through threats of extreme violence either towards the victims, or more often, towards people they are close to.

Crimes are rarely based only in one location or area. People are moved around the local area, the region, the country, or even internationally. This movement, or trafficking, serves to disorientate and isolate victims, to enable offenders to escape detection, and to enable offenders to make the most profit that they can from a person by seeking out new markets.

The Modern Slavery Act (2015) covers a wide range of abuse, including all stages involved in the coercion, control and trafficking of others  in order to exploit them for sex, labour, domestic servitude, to use their identify or access to finance, to involve them in criminal acts for another’s gain.  This legislation recognises the seriousness of these crimes, increasing the sentencing powers to life imprisonment. 

Within the West Midlands, we see all of these types of exploitation, often with more than one form of abuse happening to a person at once. 

Tackling modern slavery has been a key national law enforcement priority since 2016.  As a result, more victims are being identified and supported and more offenders are being prosecuted.  There is, however much more to do to equip organisations to work effectively in this complex area.  Data and information is not yet robust, referral pathways are not always clear, and organisations are not yet always alert to or stepping in at the earliest signs of exploitation.

As a society, we can all do more to prevent conditions for exploitation developing in our communities; cheap goods and services comes at a human cost.  The VRU is keen to help the people of West Midlands take practical steps to end modern slavery in the region.

What is the VRU Doing?

The VRU is supporting the Police and Crime Commissioner, West Midlands Police and other agencies to deliver a response to this through the existing Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Board.

The Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Board is leading on a number of regional priorities including:

  • Increasing information sharing between organisations so we can better understand the problem and respond to it.
  • Making sure vulnerable people are kept safe and prevented from being exploited by ensuring they have access to the right services across the West Midlands.
  • Ensuring that training is available to everybody, no matter what their role, so that they are in a position to identify the signs of slavery and trafficking as early as possible and know what to do when they see it.
  • Developing a multi-agency response to prevention focusing on both offenders and victims
  • Identify and disrupt any opportunities for exploitation amongst organisations working directly or indirectly for the public sector.
  • Ensuring the appropriate use of the National Referral Mechanism
  • Learning from other areas of the country and sharing good practice.
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