Modern Slavery Statement 2023 - 2024

This Statement sets out the London Borough of Bexley’s commitment to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in Bexley and sets out our role and policies as a public sector organisation, together with our partners.

This Statement supports the approach set out in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, outlining our principles, policies, practices, and actions towards eliminating modern slavery and human trafficking in Bexley and beyond. We do this in partnership, and have four overarching goals:

  1. Pursue: prosecute and disrupt individuals and groups responsible for modern slavery 
  2. Prevent: prevent people from engaging in modern slavery 
  3. Protect: strengthen safeguards against modern slavery by protecting vulnerable people from exploitation  
  4. Prepare: reduce the harm caused by modern slavery through improved victim identification and enforcement support.

More information can be found in our Modern Slavery and Exploitation Strategy and Toolkit. 

What is Modern Slavery?

The term ‘Modern Slavery’ is an umbrella term, encompassing:

  1. Human trafficking: moving or recruiting someone for the purpose of exploitation.
  2. Slavery, Servitude and Forced or Compulsory Labour: forcing someone to provide some service without their consent.

Traffickers and slave drivers coerce, deceive and force individuals against their will into a life of abuse, servitude, and inhumane treatment. Many active organised crime groups are involved in modern slavery. But it is also committed by individual opportunistic perpetrators. There are different forms of exploitation, including:

  • Forced Labour: being made to work for little or no money
  • Sexual Exploitation: being coerced or forced into selling sex
  • Domestic Servitude: being made to work within a home environment for little or no pay
  • Criminal Exploitation: being forced to break the law for someone else (e.g., stealing, selling drugs)
  • Forced/Sham Marriage: being made to marry someone you don’t want to marry
  • Organ Harvesting: bodily organs being removed for financial gain

In 2022, 16,938 potential victims were referred to the Home Office nationally, representing a 33% increase compared to the preceding year (12,706 referrals). 89% of Conclusive Grounds decisions were positive, meaning they were found to be victims of modern slavery. 41% were children, a slight decrease from 43% in the previous year. 

52% were adults, a slight increase from 50% in 2021. Albanians overtook UK nationals as the most commonly referred, with UK nationals second largest nationality referred. 78% were male and 21% female, seeing the highest proportion of male victims since the NRM began. (Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022).

The Signs

We can all help end modern slavery by being aware of what to look for. Signs that someone might be a victim of modern slavery include:

  • showing signs of injury, abuse, and malnourishment
  • they look unkempt, are often in the same clothing and have poor hygiene
  • appearing to be under the control and influence of others
  • living in cramped, dirty, overcrowded accommodation
  • they have no access or control of their passport or identity documents
  • appearing scared, avoiding eye contact, and being untrusting
  • they may allow others to speak for them when addressed directly, rather than speak for themselves
  • they’re collected very early and/or returned late at night on a regular basis
  • may have inappropriate clothing for the work they are performing, and/or a lack of safety equipment
  • may be isolated from the local community and their family
  • they travel only with other workers

The above list is not exhaustive and further information on the signs to look out for can be found on the Unseen website.

The role of The London Borough of Bexley

The Local Authority has statutory obligations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to respond to modern slavery and human trafficking and to safeguard residents from being exploited. In short, there are two obligations: 1) not to subject anyone to modern slavery or human trafficking; and 2) to act and safeguard residents when we suspect they have been a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking.

As a local authority, we have a duty to notify the Home Office of any individual encountered who we believe is a suspected victim of modern slavery or human trafficking. By referring a victim to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the Home Office can investigate the circumstances of someone’s exploitation further and provide the necessary support to potential victims and survivors of modern slavery.

In the London Borough of Bexley, we are committed to the opposition of modern slavery and human trafficking and are working with our partners to drive the identification, recognition, awareness, and disruption of this heinous crime. The London Borough of Bexley’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Strategy 2023-2028 sets out our local partnership approach (including referral pathways) and is available to read on request to the Community Safety team via email to

The Bexley modern slavery partnership is made up of the following:

1. Local Authority:

  • Procurement 
  • Community Safety 
  • Adult Social Care 
  • Children’s Social Care  
  • Youth Justice Services 
  • Trading Standards 
  • Licencing 
  • Housing 
  • Education 

2. Public Bodies:

  • Health 
  • Metropolitan Police 
  • Home Office 
  • National Crime Agency 
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority 
  • Immigration Authorities 
  • London Fire Brigade 

3. Non-Governmental Organisations:

  • The Salvation Army 
  • The Children’s Society 
  • Barnados 
  • Human Trafficking Foundation 
  • Stop the Traffik 
  • Unseen 
  • Rescue and Response

4. Decision-Makers:

  • Single Competent Authority  
  • Immigration Enforcement Competent Authority 
  • Pilot Devolved Decision-Making Local Authority Sites 

Supporting our Wider Objectives

Our Modern Slavery and Exploitation Strategy supports our Corporate Plan (Bexley Plan 2022-26). In particular:

Outcome 9: People and communities feel safe and inclusive.

Bexley prides itself on being one of London’s safest boroughs, and that includes from Modern Slavery. We work to ensure Bexley continues to be a borough of low-risk and that requires the partnership working contained in the Strategy to ensure we respond robustly where we have concerns and to ensure we are proactive and preventing exploitation. Further information can be found in our Modern Slavery and Exploitation Strategy 2023-2028.

Outcome 14: Rigorous procurement and contract management to get the best services.

Many services are provided by partners and contractors on our behalf. This means that we have an obligation to ensure they provide services in a lawful and legitimate way, as we would expect of ourselves, and that they treat their own employees and contractors according to the law. We will manage our contracts in a way which ensures we identify and address risks of modern slavery in our supply chains and that we provide resources and awareness for our contractors around modern slavery and their duties. We will provide an Annual Transparency in Supply Chains Statement (below) to demonstrate what the risks are in our supply chains and how we mitigate them.

For professionals seeking latest advice on how to help potential victims

For the latest advice on how to end modern slavery, including details about how to refer victims into the national referral mechanism (NRM) and the statutory guidance, please see the Government’s Modern Slavery website.
You can also find a directory of support services for victims of modern slavery on the Bexley Safeguarding Adults Board (BSAB) website.

Find out more information about training for professionals

Our Work to Date

The Council has been committed to tackling modern slavery in line with our original Strategy in 2019. This included:

  1. to raise awareness of Modern Slavery and how to spot the signs
  2. to ensure a whole system understanding of statutory responsibilities
  3. to ensure frontline staff have the tools, resources, and guidance to meet their legal duties
  4. understanding of local context and improvement of partnerships for cross-sector working and information sharing
  5. confidence to act when you are not a First Responder but have a concern
  6. working in line with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and new emerging laws, policies, and guidance

We have developed public communications, tools, and resources to raise awareness of modern slavery, human trafficking, and child exploitation. We commit to partnership awareness activities every year on National Anti-Slavery Day. As a result of this, the number of referrals for modern slavery victims by the London Borough of Bexley increased from 20 in 2021 to 33 in 2022 (Stop the Traffik Pan-London Dashboard). This is a positive outcome; we need to identify victims to help them.

We have created a Modern Slavery Working Group with partners, in which we share and develop information, tools and resources to tackle modern slavery. Through this partnership, we have increased our network and put modern slavery on the agenda for many other agencies and organisations, and this is being more widely recognised. We joined the Pan-London Data Project run by Stop the Traffik to map our data to better understand our local context and guide our work.

We have developed a local authority internal referral process to ensure all required steps are followed. We have also developed an adult and child referral checklist for practitioners to follow an in-depth guidance tool and ensure all partners are involved in the safeguarding of victims.

We created our first Transparency-in-Supply Chains Statement in 2022-2023; while not a legal requirement, we seek to embed steps into our procurement practices to deter exploitation in our supply chains and address risks where they might arise. We have HR policies and practices, such as recruitment, whistleblowing, and grievance procedures, to ensure we have responsible recruitment practices and that no Council employee is exploited.

We require all local authority staff to undertake modern slavery training and offer more intensive training for frontline professionals in Bexley, including those who are not First Responders, to ensure a cross-sector understanding of modern slavery and confidence in all our roles and duties in tackling it. Recently, we have developed a Child Exploitation specific training for local partners to improve our understanding and actions responding to modern slavery of children and young people.

We keep updated of changing laws, policies and guidance and update our own policies and practices accordingly. We do this by participating in local, regional, and national networks and learning from best practice of other local authorities and partnerships. We report to the Bexley Community Safety Partnership bi-annually on our modern slavery work to ensure oversight of delivery against the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Strategy.

We were successful in becoming a pilot site for the Child NRM Devolved Decision-Making Panels, in which we coordinate a local panel of local authority, police and health professionals to make decisions about whether children referred into the National Referral Mechanism are victims of modern slavery or not. This panel will run for one year and is expected to make decision-making and partnership working more efficient and effective.

Areas of Focus in 2023-2024

Looking forwards into 2023-2024, our work to tackle modern slavery continues, but must also adapt to new legislative changes and local developments. We will continue to deliver against the four overarching goals of Prevent, Protect, Prepare and Pursue, but will adapt our actions to reflect progress and new needs.

Our main actions this year are to:

  1. Increase the uptake of modern slavery training borough-wide and across all partners
  2. To increase confidence in understanding of modern slavery duties and ensure all local authority staff know where to access tools and resources
  3. To continue to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking, engaging more with local groups and residents
  4. To risk assess our supply chains and procurement processes and develop practices to mitigate risks identified
  5. To pilot the NRM Devolved Decision-Making Panel, reflect on and learn from the outcomes
  6. To utilise new data coming from the Stop the Traffik pan-London project to identify new trends and needs
  7. To carry out proactive partnership enforcement activities to disrupt exploitation in at-risk sectors

For our five-year Strategy and Toolkit and a longer-term perspective, please refer to our Modern Slavery and Exploitation Strategy 2023-2028.

Councillor Sue Gower MBE, Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, and Chair of the Bexley Community Safety Partnership

Councillor Sue Gower MBE, Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, and Chair of the Bexley Community Safety Partnership

Reporting, Advice and Support

In an emergency, always call 999.

In a non-emergency:

For more information or confidential advice and support, call the 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline free on 0800 0121 700 or visit the Modern Slavery Helpline website.