Modern day slavery

Modern slavery is an umbrella term encompassing slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.

Victims of modern slavery are unable to leave their situation of exploitation, controlled by threats, punishment, violence, coercion and deception.

Slavery violates human rights, denying people of their right to life, freedom and security. Modern slavery is said to be ‘hidden in plain sight’ and many of us will have unknowingly seen the victims, perpetrators or effects of slavery in our day-to-day life.

Despite this modern slavery is difficult to identify and we still have a lot to learn about the nature of modern slavery in Hackney.

Hackney’s commitment to tackling modern day slavery (MDS)

The Council has signed up to The Co-operative Party’s Charter against modern slavery to ensure we are proactively ensuring modern slavery does not exist in our supply chain.

We are committed to ensuring that everyone should ‘be able to live a safe and happy life free from slavery and exploitation in all its forms’.

We have 4 main aims in relation to modern slavery:

  • to tackle modern slavery through strong leadership and effective partnerships
  • to raise awareness of modern day slavery
  • to identify and support victims of modern slavery
  • to pursue perpetrators of modern slavery

To ensure that we meet these aims we have developed the modern slavery inter-board strategy August 2019 and the modern slavery and human trafficking statement April 2021 -March 2022.

This sets out the specific actions that we will take to meet our aims and protect residents of Hackney.

Types of modern slavery

There are many types of modern slavery however slavery typically falls under one of the following categories:

Labour exploitation or debt bondage

Where vulnerable people are exploited for labour or forced to work for little or no money.

Victims may be coerced into working in dangerous conditions, live in squalor and have limited access to their own money and belongings.

Similarly, debt bondage may see a person being forced to work for a person who has lent them money, which they have little prospect of paying off.

This can happen in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime and beauty (nail bars).

Domestic servitude

Where victims are made to work almost constantly in private households.

The pay is often very low and payments may be delayed or in kind for food and accommodation.

Victims may have their freedoms limited, for example they are stopped from leaving the house, have their identity documents removed and have restricted contact with the outside world.

Sexual exploitation

Where adults and children are groomed or forced into sex work or to perform sexual acts.

This could be group exploitation where victims are forced into sex work with multiple person, commonly being based in brothels, on the street or in ‘pop-up’ locations.

There are also single exploiters who may groom the person to engage in sexual activity with them, this is often very common within child sexual exploitation.

Criminal exploitation

Where individuals or groups of people are controlled, maltreated, or forced to commit crime and unlawful acts against their will.

This covers gang and drug related activity, such as county lines, forced begging, shoplifting, benefit fraud and theft.

Sham and forced marriages also fall under this category; often women forced into a marriage can also be subject to domestic abuse.

Who is affected?

Anyone can be a victim of modern slavery and there is no typical profile for a victim.

In the UK, victims were found to be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities.

It was found that slavery was more prevalent among those who were the most vulnerable in society, because they were either socially excluded or belonged to minority groups.


There are lots of signs that a person may be living in slavery, this includes:

  • someone may appear under control of someone else and may be unwilling to engage with others
  • they may have few belongings on them and have no personal identification
  • a person may be dropped off or collected for work at unusual times and may have limited freedom to do what they want
  • there may be many people living in a house that is only suitable for a small number of people
  • a person may appear unkempt or not suitably dressed for an occasion for example work or cold weather
  • someone may appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse.

For children and young people, the following signs are seen in children who are already being exploited:

  • missing from home or care
  • absent from school for whole of part days
  • sexually-transmitted infection(s) / injuries causes by sexual activity / pregnancy and termination(s)
  • recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • evidence of sexual bullying and / or vulnerability through the internet and / or social networking sites
  • involvement in offending
  • receipt of gifts and money from unknown sources
  • physical injuries
  • drug or alcohol misuse
  • change in physical appearance
  • estranged from their family
  • poor mental health / self-harm / thoughts of or attempts at suicide

More information about exploitation and vulnerable adolescents is available from the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership.

What to do if you suspect slavery

If you suspect that someone is living in slavery, then it is important that you do not confront or approach them as this could cause more harm.

The police should always be contacted in the first instance, on 999 in emergencies or 101 in other situations.

The following organisations can also be contacted:

  • for concerns about children under 18: 0208 356 5500 or
  • for concerns about adults: Information and Assessment team on 0208 356 6262 or the Safeguarding Adults team on 0208 356 5782
  • Modern Day Slavery Helpline: 08000 121 700
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority: 0800 432 0804 or email:
  • Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111
  • The Salvation Army: 0300 303 8151


Page updated on: 11 March 2022