Wednesday, 1st April

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its first publication into modern slavery offences in the UK, however ECPAT UK is concerned that more data is needed, particularly related to children.

The ONS report, Modern Slavery in the UK: March 2020, brings together a range of available data sources on known victims and cases of modern slavery in the UK, to provide a better understanding of the extent and nature of these crimes. While we welcome the publication of data on these harmful crimes, there is a clear need to ensure children are visible within the data in order to support effective policy making.

The ONS reports considerable increases in modern slavery offences in recent years. This has been attributed to better awareness and police recording practices.

However, the report covers no data regarding support for children, citing the data recorded is provided by charities assisting adult victims, whereas children are supported by local authorities in Wales, Scotland and England and by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. Furthermore there currently is no data on the outcomes achieved by child victims in the long term following identification.

With an estimated 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK, the report barely scratched the surface of the scale of these crimes with the 6,985 potential victims it identifies.

ECPAT UK calls for reports such as this to ensure modern slavery issues affecting children are counted. Data must be disaggregated for modern slavery offences against children if we want to ensure data-driven policy making that takes into account what works to support children after identification.

As we see a rise in referrals for potential child victims of labour exploitation, which officials have attributed to an increase in identification of children exploited for criminal activity, it’s essential that we have an accurate picture of the scale of this issue. This will ensure central and local government can develop adequate responses and fund effective preventative and early intervention measure to address the epidemic of child exploitation in the UK.

ECPAT UK's training and practice officer, Phil Spencer, said

'Both in my previous role as a practitioner and in my current role working with frontline services, I can see that social workers, youth justice practitioners, foster carers, teachers and other professionals are doing all they can to protect children from exploitation, particularly in criminal activity.

‘However we cannot adequately address this unless we know the full extent and dynamics of child criminal exploitation - right now we are blind.'


Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, 020 7607 2136, [email protected]